The Lusitania Resource > People > Saloon (First Class) Passenger List > Mr. George Ley Pearce Vernon (Butler) (George La Page)

Mr. George Ley Pearce Vernon (Butler) (George La Page)

George Vernon
Saloon Passenger
Lost
George Vernon
image:  The Illustrated London News, 29 May 1915.  Courtesy Michael Poirier.
Born George Ley Pearce Butler
1869
Massachusetts, United States
Died 7 May 1915 (age 45)
At sea
Age on Lusitania 45
Ticket number D1347
Cabin number E 62
Body number 201
Interred Private grave 651, Old Church Cemetery, Queenstown (now Cobh), Ireland
Occupation Munitions contractor
Citizenship British
Residence London, England, United Kingdom
Other names George La Page
Spouse(s) Inez Jolivet (1906 – 1915, his death)

George Vernon, 45, was a former concert singer who became an importer’s agent and promoter.  He was traveling aboard Lusitania‘s last voyage to secure munitions contracts for Russia in World War I, and to bring his wife Inez from England to the United States.  During the sinking, George stood near the verandah cafe with his sister-in-law Rita Jolivet, theater impresario Charles Frohman, and Captain Alick Scott.  Vernon was lost.  Rita was the only member of their group to survive.

Contents 

  1. A man of versatility
  2. Lusitania
  3. Another victim of the Lusitania crime
  4. Compensation
  5. Related pages

A man of versatility


George Vernon was born George Ley Pearce Butler, son of Hepzibah Vernon Butler of Worcester, Massachusetts.  George’s siblings included Reverend Theodore Butler of Haddon Heights, New Jersey; Mrs. John F. Fenton, wife of the rector of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Metuchen, New Jersey; and a music teacher.

Starting out as a banker, George switched professions and became a well-reviewed concert singer, also changing his name to George Vernon.  During this time George met and fell in love with a French professional violinist 17 years his junior, Inez Henriette Jolivet.  From 1905 onwards, Vernon’s salary was said to have been $20,000 per year.  Also around this time, George and Inez exchanged their American passports for British ones. George Vernon and Inez Jolivet married around 1906 and traveled often in high style.

Retiring from the stage, George became an importer’s agent and promoter.  Months before embarking on the last voyage of the Lusitania, George became a representative of the Russian Government, working to secure munitions contracts.  

Lusitania


In May of 1915, George sailed on the Lusitania in a dual purpose mission:  he would secure the arms contracts, and then escort Inez to the United States.  At the moment, Inez was with her father and brother Alfred in Kew, England.  Alfred Jolivet was about to be called up to service and her sister, actress Rita Jolivet, had, on impulse, also booked passage on the Lusitania to see him off, unaware that she would be traveling on the same ship as her brother-in-law, George.  George’s mother, Hepzibah, then living in Worcester, Massachusetts, was unaware that he had sailed at all.

Throughout the Lusitania‘s last voyage, George was seen with Rita as part of the entourage of Broadway impresario Charles Frohman.  On Thursday, 6 May, Vernon was at the party Frohman was throwing, and Vernon reminded the Broadway producer of his plans to present plays on board the Lusitania‘s sister ship, Mauretania.  Frohman then recalled, “Yes, I did dream of a mid-Atlantic theater, but my leading lady succumbed to mal de mer.”

On Friday afternoon, George Vernon, Charles Frohman, and Captain Alick Scott were on the portside Boat Deck, chatting by the verandah café, when the torpedo hit.  Still puffing on his cigar, Frohman said, “This is going to be a close call.”

“Stay there!”  Scott told them, “I’ll fetch some lifejackets.”

“Why not stay where you are, Captain Scott?”  Frohman asked, “We shall have more chance by staying here than dashing off to the boats.”

Scott insisted and he returned with two, one for Frohman and another for Vernon.  A terrified Rita Jolivet soon joined them on deck and George helped her put on the lifebelt.  Frohman accepted Scott’s lifejacket reluctantly.  Scott went below a second time for more lifebelts, but gave those away.  Frohman, Vernon, and Jolivet all offered Scott their lifejackets, but Scott answered, “If I am going to die, it’s only for once.”

Frohman soon gave his away to a woman.  Holding his cigar, he remarked almost conversationally, “I didn’t think they would do it.”

The four agreed to stay together on the port side near the verandah café as the ship was sinking.  When the ship lurched, Frohman told Rita to hang on to the railing and save her strength.  To the end Charles Frohman was calm, quoting Barrie’s Peter Pan, “Why fear death?  It is the most beautiful adventure in life.”* Barely had Frohman finished speaking these immortal words did a “green cliff of water” forcibly part group (Preston, 237).

Dr. James Houghton recognized George aboard their damaged collapsible, but before being rescued by the torpedo boat 050 Houghton saw George go mad and dive off the lifeboat.  George Vernon was body #201, recovered, and buried in private grave #651 in Queenstown.

Another victim of the Lusitania crime


Inez sailed for the United States in June without her husband, on the American Liner St. Paul.  On board were also many Lusitania survivors, and Eloise Smith and Robert Daniel, survivors of another infamous shipwreck, the Titanic.  Inez first visited friends in New Jersey where she stayed for while and then returned to her New York City apartment.  There, on 28 July, dressed in a black evening gown and bedecked in jewels, a despondent Inez put a pistol to her head.

Inez was buried with her husband in Queenstown.

The memorial in Cobh, modern-day Queenstown, for George and Inez reads thus:

IN TENDER MEMORY OF
INEZ AND GEORGE LEY VERNON
BOTH YOUNG, BEAUTIFUL, AND GIFTED
VICTIMS OF THE LUSITANIA CRIME
MAY 7, 1915

Compensation


George’s parents received $20,000.00 from his life insurance policy, and his mother was left $10,000 in his will. His father died on 21 July 1920.  During the legal cases that ensued from the loss of the Lusitania, Hepzibah sought compensation for the loss of “delicacies and luxuries” that George often provided her and her husband; however, as there was no legal documentation for this, in 1924 she was granted a settlement of $5,000 for George’s death. By then she was already 81 years old.

Related pages


George Vernon at the Mixed Claims Commission


*See the footnote under Charles Frohman.

Contributors:
Jim Kalafus, USA
Michael Poirier, USA
Judith Tavares

References:
Hickey, Des and Gus Smith.  Seven Days to Disaster.  G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1981.

Hoehling, A. A. and Mary Hoehling.  The Last Voyage of the Lusitania.  Madison Books, 1956.

Mixed Claims Commission, Docket No. 289.

Preston, Diana.  Lusitania:  An Epic Tragedy.  Berkely Books, 2002.

About the Author