I Wish I'd Been There:
Celebrating a Life Lost
by Mary Swartley
I wish I had been with the Mennonites
at Hereford, Pennsylvania to celebrate the life of Annie C. Funk
in 1912 after she lost her life as a passenger on the Titanic
on her return home from a term of service in India.
Annie Funk was born April 12, 1874 and grew up about three miles
from the Hereford Mennonite Church, in Bally, Pennsylvania. Annie
had been a courageous young woman of eastern Pennsylvania. Even
before she was appointed by the General Conference Mennonite
Mission Board for her assignment in India, Annie had served among
the blacks in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and with the YWCA at Patterson,
New Jersey. Annie was a woman who was willing to move outside
the comforts of her home community to respond to the call of
Annie had studied missions in a training school in Northfield,
Massachusetts. She had also been to New York City and worked
with the Methodists there. Missions was a new thing among Mennonites,
but Annie caught the vision and waited until after she was thirty
to be appointed for her assignment to India. She left in November
1906. John Ruth writes that when another woman who intended to
travel with Annie could not go because of illness, Annie chose
to go by herself.1
In India, Annie traveled on a bicycle donated by the young people
of the Quakertown and Philadelphia congregations, founded a girls'
school, and wrote enthusiastic letters home. In 1912, Annie was
called home because of the illness of her mother. In England
she unexpectedly was given passage on the maiden voyage of the
Titanic because a coal strike had delayed passage on the S.S.
Haverford on which she was booked.
When the Titanic struck an iceberg and began to sink, there were
not enough lifeboats for all the passengers. Unconfirmed reports
indicate that Annie relinquished her seat on a lifeboat to a
mother with children. Her friends back in Pennsylvania said,
"It was just like Annie to do something like that."
Annie was a dedicated and beloved worker in India. The Girls'
School at Janjgir, which she founded in 1908, was later named
the Annie C. Funk Memorial School.
The memorial service for Annie Funk was probably the largest
memorial service in the history of the Hereford congregation.
The community that surrounded and nurtured her should feel proud
of the Annie Funk legacy. Annie's faith is symbolized by her
reply to a friend from Pennsylvania who was concerned about the
dangerous ocean voyage in 1906. Annie replied, "Our heavenly
Father is as near to us on sea as on land. My trust is in Him.
I have no fear."2
Mary Swartley is a retired high school business
teacher/administrator, currently serving on the Indiana-Michigan
Conference Executive Committee and studying part time at Associated
Mennonite Biblical Seminary. Mary was co-editor of a recent Herald
Press book, She Has Done A Good Thing.
Ruth, John L, Maintaining The Right
Fellowship, Herald Press, 1984, pp. 413-415.
Russell R., Mennonite Encyclopedia, Volume V, Herald Press,
1990, p. 891.
Mennonite Historical Bulletin,
updated 4 September 2001