The Lusitania Resource > People > Second Cabin (Second Class) Passenger List > Mrs. Hubert Isaacs Owens (Cecelia “Cissie” Mildred Smith)

Mrs. Hubert Isaacs Owens (Cecelia “Cissie” Mildred Smith)

Cecelia Owens Second Cabin Passenger Saved
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Born Cecelia Mildred Smith 1879 ?
Died 20 July 1966 (age 87) Swansea, Wales, United Kingdom
Age on Lusitania 33
Traveling with - Ronald Owens (son) - Reginald Owens (son) - Alfred Smith (brother) - Elizabeth Smith (sister-in-law) - Helen Smith (niece) - Hubert Smith (nephew)
Citizenship British (Wales)
Residence Ellwood City, Pennsylvania, United States
Spouse(s) Hubert Isaacs Owens
Cecelia Owens, 33, boarded Lusitania with her sons Ronald and Reginald Owens, and her brother Alfred Smith, sister-in-law Elizabeth Smith, niece Helen and nephew Hubert Smith. Cecelia had been in her cabin, watching baby Hubert, when the torpedo struck the ship.  She met up with Alfred and Elizabeth, but was unable to find her sons, who had been playing on deck with Helen.  A stranger put a lifejacket on Cecelia and threw her into a lifeboat, which overturned upon lowering.  Cecelia reached a swamped collapsible and was rescued by a fishing trawler.  Cecelia survived.  Everyone in her family on board Lusitania, except Helen Smith, perished in the sinking.
  1. Before Lusitania
  2. Disaster
  3. Reunion
  4. Later life
  Before Lusitania
Cecelia Owens was born Cecelia Mildred Smith, and her family came from Swansea, Wales.  She married Hubert Isaac Owens together they had two sons, Ronald and Reginald Owens.  Cecelia's brothers Arthur and Alfred moved to the United States some time around 1909, as did Cecelia, Hubert, and their sons.  They first lived in Yonkers, New York, and then Alfred's and Cecelia's families moved west to Ellwood City, near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  There, Hubert found a job at the local steel factory. By 1915, Cecelia's sister-in-law Elizabeth had become disillusioned with life in America, and so Alfred, Elizabeth and their two children were moving back to Swansea.  Cecelia, Ronald, and Reginald would also be traveling with the Smiths, presumably to visit their ancestral home and then return to the United States, as Hubert Owens had stayed in Ellwood City.  Ronald had not wanted to go back to Britain and wanted to stay in Ellwood City with his father.  He was eventually persuaded to travel with the rest of the family on Lusitania.


In a letter sent from Lusitania right after her maiden voyage in September 1907, now in the scrapbook of the Arthur Smith family, the officer who wrote the letter invited Arthur to tour Lusitania.  Evidently, the Smith family had a personal relationship with the Cunard Line.  This family connection may ultimately have played a part in the Smiths' and Owens' choice of sailing on Lusitania on what was to be her fatal last crossing. After lunch on Friday, 7 May, Cecelia had permitted her boys to play on deck with Helen until 2 p.m.  Alfred and Elizabeth would be packing in their cabin, while Cecelia watched over baby Hubert. At 2 p.m., her dutiful sons reported back to Cecelia in their cabin, saying, "we are playing on deck and we are enjoying ourselves.  Helen is with us, and it is such fun!" The boys wanted to play for another half hour, and she granted them permission to do so.  The boys ran out of the room to rejoin Helen, who was still on deck by herself, waiting for her cousins to return.  This would be the last time Cecelia would see her sons. The torpedo struck at 2:10 p.m.  At first, Cecelia thought that Lusitania had run aground off the coast of Ireland.  A second explosion quickly followed, and she realized that they had been torpedoed.  The ship started listing to starboard.  Taking Hubert into her arms, Cecelia left her cabin and joined the startled crowd streaming to the open promenades above.  She had to find her sons. Instead of finding her sons, she found Alfred and Elizabeth, who had been looking for their children.  Cecelia would later recall that she saw Elizabeth running around frantically, with her hair falling loose around her shoulders.  Cecelia returned Hubert to Alfred and Elizabeth, and Cecelia parted with her brother and sister-in-law to look for the missing children.  Cecelia searched the open decks, calling out for Helen and her sons, without avail. A stranger stopped Cecelia and put a lifebelt on her.  She was then thrown in a lifeboat.  The lifeboat overturned as it was being lowered, throwing Cecelia and everyone else inside in the water.  Cecelia swam to a swamped collapsible boat with two other men; one of them pulled Cecelia in to get her out of the water as much as possible.  They stayed on the collapsible until they were rescued by a fishing trawler hours later.


Cecelia was in the Queenstown hotel when she heard a girl pipe up, "why, here is auntie!" Helen had survived and was being looked after by Toronto newspaperman Ernest Cowper.  Helen had found Cowper during the sinking, and they attempted to look for her family before Helen and Cowper got away safely in lifeboat 13.  Cecelia came to claim Helen, stating that she was the child's aunt.  At the time, Cowper thought Cecelia, being "well-dressed" for the shipwreck survivor, was just a wealthy woman who had heard of Helen's story and wanted to adopt her. Cecelia and Helen were the only members of their family to survive the sinking.  Alfred, Elizabeth, baby Hubert, Ronald, and Reginald were all lost, and their bodies, if ever recovered, were not identified.  Cecelia remained in a state of shock for some time.  In Queenstown, a doctor treated Cecelia for the bruises she had all over her limbs.  She soon felt better physically, but as she wrote to her brother Arthur:
I will try and write a few words to ease your mind & my own. You know of my dreadful trouble. I am thankful to God I am alive & no limbs are broken. My darlings are gone, also dear Alf Bessie, Baby. Helen & myself left…I swam for my life & was picked up by some fellow pulling me on a collapsable boat (I can’t spell today). I had a terrible experience. I am thankful I have my mind also limbs which are bruised all over. I am under a doctor’s care and feel better than I did, but oh my heart aches & will always. My dear boys were with me five minutes before it happened but I never saw them again…… Oh Arthur this is a dreadful blow. Everything I possess is gone and my darlings as well. Also our dear Alf and his lot……I am trying to be brave. God will still give me strength to overcome this as he saved me for some purpose. Your broken hearted sister. CE How must dear Hubert feel? I have not heard yet. Only cablegrams.
Helen did not seem to understand that she had lost her mother, father, sister, and cousins and would never see them again. "Everybody is sorry for me because my mummy and daddy have gone," Helen told well-wishers, "they're coming on another boat." As Helen continued to wait for her parents and sister who would never come, she regaled the symapthetic crowds with stories of submarines and how she had often seen them in moving pictures. Back in Ellwood City, when Cecelia's husband Hubert heard news of the sinking, he was sick and almost speechless with dread.  He went home early from the steel mill that day.

Later life

Through late 1915, Cecelia remained in a state of depression.  Hubert Owens brought Cecelia back to the United States in 1916, where they stayed in the Pittsburgh - Cleveland area until the Great Depression.  At that time, the Owenses moved back to Swansea, as their savings would be spent more economically in Great Britain.  Cecelia Owens died of complications from cancer on 20 July 1966 in Swansea.  She was 87 years old.

Links of interest

Encyclopedia Titanica:  Lest We Forget - Part 1
Contributors: Jim Kalafus, USA Carol Keeler Peter Kelly, Ireland Mike Poirier, USA References: Hickey, Des and Gus Smith.  Seven Days to Disaster, pages 115, 178, 194, 227, 274.  G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1982. Hoehling, A.A. and Mary Hoehling.  The Last Voyage of the Lusitania. Madison Books, 1956. Kalafus, Jim and Michael Poirier (2005) Lest We Forget : Part 1. ET Research. <>. Kalafus, Jim and Michael Poirier (2005) Lest We Forget Part 2: As the Lusitania Went Down ET Research. <>.

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