The 2010 Reunion

Zamzam survivors gathered July 30 - August 1, 2010 for a 7th reunion, marking 69 years since the sinking of the Zamzam. The gathering was held at the Mennonite Central Committee Welcoming Place in Akron, Pennsylvania, with a total of 65 in attendance. That figure includes family members and friends, as well as 13 survivors of the 1941 sinking.


Those 13 survivors are

(front row, left to right): Edith (Brill) Stanford, Eleanor (Danielson) Anderson, Alice (Landis) Schellenberg, Art Barnett, Lois (Danielson) Carlson, Fay (Brill) Ferris;

(back row): Luella (Danielson) Holwerda, Evelyn (Danielson) Ternstrom, Elaine (Morrill) Rodriguez, Gordon Smith, Peter Levitt, Laurence Danielson, and Wilfred Danielson.

At this reunion we knew of 30 survivors still living. There had been 203 passengers on the Zamzam. Art Barnett died on Jan. 24, 2014 at age 104. For much of his adult life, Art and his wife Peggy served as medical missionaries in Kenya. Art is remembered for telling the Zamzam story with thanks and praise to God.

Alice Schellenberg, born Oct 20, 1913, is now our only living survivor who had been an adult on the Zamzam.


Alice Schellenberg and Art Barnett


The reunion was attended by several relatives of Zamzam passengers. Again and again we were reminded of the Psalmist's challenge to praise God and to share the news of His faithfulness "from generation to generation". (See Psalm 145)

Included in the picture of descendants are:

(Standing) Kathy Harrell, Lem Blades, James and Aksel Nelson, Peter Nelson, Dave Stewart, Tim Harrell, Lloyd Hall, Lynette Mathewson, Scott and Bethanee Mathewson.

(Seated) Anne Snyder, Mike Harrell, Amy and JJ Harrell (on floor), Geoff Starr, Judy Young, Peggy Weymer, and Sally Gillispie.

Children and grandchildren of the survivors

In addition to family names mentioned previously, there were several spouses present, as well as members of other families: Bakers, Sandy Bartel and Peggy Harden, Lois Scheier, Joyce Renick, other Barnetts...

Coming to the reunion from the greatest distance were brother and sister Jim and Mary Rogers of England, remembering their great-uncle and great-aunt, Walter and Clara Guilding.

Jim Rogers of England tells about his great-uncle and great-aunt who had been on the Zamzam.

Peggy Weymer remembers hearing that the Zamzam -- and her dad -- were "lost".

The largest family group of actual survivors were us six Danielson "children": Laurence (CO), Eleanor (KS), and Evelyn (CA), Luella (AR), Wilfred (VA), and Lois (KS). The Danielsons are included in the 'Survivors', pictured above. God has been so good to keep us well through all these years.

Laurence Danielson gave the official "welcome" at the reunion's opening meeting Friday evening, and Al Harrell led devotions. Others who led devotions throughout the week-end were Elaine Rodriguez, Gordon Smith, Evelyn Ternstrom, David Carlson, and Hans Botha (in absentia). Hymn singing, in addition to being accompanied by pianist Elaine Rodriguez, was accompanied by trombonist Lois Carlson, reminiscent of the missionary band on the Zamzam and Dresden.

At the opening session, the survivors together told the Zamzam story, recalling personal memories and feelings, as well as giving the facts. But survivors are not the only persons who tell the story! Jim and Mattie Jones, who had driven from Ohio to be with us, are an example of the expanded sharing of the story, in groups and one-on-one. It has been noted again and again that the story of the Zamzam is not only a dramatic story of faith, wrapped in God's miraculous care, but also part of the history of World War II.

The British American Ambulance Corp also is part of history. Based on his dad's diary, David Stewart told us about his dad, who was one of the 24 British American Ambulance Corp members headed for North Africa on the Zamzam. A book is forthcoming, based on Jim's diary.

Dave Stewart's dad was an ambulance driver on the Zamzam.

Lynette Mathewson shows her grandmother's diary.

Lynette (Hall) Mathewson, whose grandparents and dad were on the Zamzam, shared excerpts from her grandmother's diary, covering March 20 to June 24, 1941. The diary is filled with everyday details about life aboard the Zamzam and Dresden, especially among the women and children. Included also are names of leaders and the scripture passages read at devotions on the Dresden.

Another presenter was Lemuel Blades, grandson of Ned Laughinghouse, the only fatality directly related to the shelling of the Zamzam. Ned died ten days after the sinking. Lemuel closed with the challenge to let good, not bad, come from the tragedy of his grandfather's death.

Using PowerPoint, Peter Levitt shared his family's unique story of internment. We look forward to Peter publishing his story as a book.

Six tables full of books, magazines, artifacts, reports, pictures graced the edges of our meeting room. Among recent additions is Carolyn Gossage's book about the seven Canadian women who had been on the Zamzam.

Peter Levitt tells of internment.

Archivist Bob Shuster

Lu Holwerda shows an early edition of the book she has written for children.

Bob Shuster of the Billy Graham Center Archives in Wheaton, IL, encouraged the preservation of Zamzam materials; the Archives in Wheaton has a significant collection, thanks to Mr. Shuster. We are indebted also to Wilfred Danielson who has made a very complete bibliography of Zamzam materials.

Luella Holwerda recited a poem she has written recently, reflecting her feelings as a young child.

2010 reunion - left side

2010 reunion - right side

On Sunday we held a brief memorial service to honor Ruth Norberg Nye, a survivor, and other family members of the Zamzam group who have died since our previous reunion, in 2006. The first Zamzam reunion was held in 1991, fifty years after the sinking. Since that time we have grown close through reunions and our newsletter.

We closed our 2010 reunion by singing (through tears): "God Be with You 'til We Meet Again". God has gone with us through "deep waters" (Isaiah 43:2), and we trust His promise to be with us always.

Thanks be to God !

Submitted by Eleanor Anderson, Sep. 25, 2010 and updated on Jan. 24, 2014.