Winnifred Vera Quick was born in Plymouth, England in 1904 to Frederick Charles Quick, a plasterer, and his wife, Jane Richards Quick. A second daughter, Phyllis May, was born on July 27, 1909.
In 1910, Winnifred's father decided to emigrate from England to Detroit to make a better life for his family. He travelled alone, and would later send for his wife and daughters when he was financially secure. In the meantime, the Quicks would live with Jane Quick's mother in Plymouth. By early 1912, Frederick was established and secure and sent for his family. Soon after his wife booked passage for herself and their two daughters, she was notified that her ship's sailing had been cancelled due to a coal strike, but that they would be transferred to the RMS Titanic, which was set to sail on April 10, 1912.
Eight-year-old Winnifred, along with her mother and sister, boarded the Titanic as second-class passengers at Southampton. Despite calm seas, Winnifred was seasick for most of the first four days.
On April 14, Winnifred and her family went to bed shortly after 9 PM. Neither Winnifred, her mother, or sister, felt the ship's collision with the iceberg at 11:40 PM. It was only after a passenger knocked on their cabin door telling them there had been an accident, did the Quick family realize something was wrong. Not thinking the ship was seriously damaged, Jane took her time getting dressed. A steward peeked his head inside the cabin and seeing how slow Jane was getting ready, demanded the family get their lifebelts on as the ship had struck an iceberg and was sinking.
Winnifred and her sister were awakened and dressed, and along with their mother, walked up five flights of stairs to A Deck. On deck, an unknown gentleman helped calm Winnifred who was crying hysterically, and fastened Phyllis with a lifebelt. Jane put Winnifred and Phyllis in Lifeboat 11, but she was initially denied entry herself when the man in charge uttered, 'only room for the children'. Jane reportedly told him, 'either we go together or we stay together'. He finally let her join her children; she was the last one allowed in the lifeboat, which according to Jane, held roughly 50 people. Even in the lifeboat, Winnifred continued to cry until someone noticed her shoes had fallen off and her feet were sitting in the freezing water.
Winnifred finally fell asleep but was awoken when people around her cheered as the rescue ship RMS Carpathia became visible. Winnifred and Phyllis were put in a sack and pulled to Carpathia's deck. Winnifred later recalled seeing many survivors weeping and even observed burial at sea for several passengers who had died in the lifeboats. Winnifred's father heard the news of Titanic's sinking, but received a wireless message that his wife and daughters were safe. He was at the dock in New York on April 18, when the Carpathia arrived. The Quicks spent the night as guests of the Hebrew Sheltering and Immigrant Aid Society. The following morning, the Quicks left New York City on the New York Express and arrived in Detroit on April 20.
Winnifred's mother died in 1965, aged 84, and her sister, Phyllis died in 1954.
Career and marriage
Winnifred left school after graduating from the eighth grade. She worked in various jobs including making candy and as a sales clerk at a department store. In 1918, Winnifred met Alois Van Tongerloo and the two were married in 1923. He was a master carpenter; the marriage produced five children.
In 1966, her husband retired and the two travelled throughout the USA, reportedly visiting every state except Hawaii. When asked if she would ever make a return trip back to England, she replied "No! I don't like big boats! I like to go in the water up to my neck but not on top of the water over my head!" Although Winnifred didn't mind talking about her experiences on the Titanic, she never attended any organized gatherings of Titanic survivors.
Winnifred Van Tongerloo died on July 4, 2002 in East Lansing, Michigan, aged 98. She was one of the last five remaining survivors, the last survivor who did not lose a relative in the sinking, and was preceded in death by her husband and two of her children.