Podesta, Mr. John
Crew: Engineering - Fireman/Stoker
13 Aug 1887
Southampton, Hampshire, England
12 May 1968
Southampton, Hampshire, England
Alfred John Alexander Podesta, known as John or Jack was born in Southampton, the only child of Giovanni Podesta (b. circa 1830) and Mary Jane Light (b. circa 1858). His father, known as John, was Italian, while his mother was from Southampton. His mother was listed as a widow by 1891. She remarried in 1893 and produced a daughter, Mary three years earlier.
John signed onto the Titanic after previously working on the Oceanic. The morning of departure John met friend William Nutbean and fellow firemen Alfred, Bertram and Thomas Slade and trimmer Alfred Penney. John spoke of the events of that morning in a 1968 interview many years later:
"I got up on the morning of April 10th and made off down to the ship for eight o'clock muster, as is the case on all sailing days, which takes about an hour. As the ship is about to sail at about twelve o'clock noon most of us firemen and trimmers go ashore again until sailing time. So off we went [with] several others I knew on my watch, which was 4 to 8.
My watch-mate, whose name was William Nutbean and I went off to our local public-house for a drink in the Newcastle Hotel. We left about eleven fifteen making our way toward the docks. Having plenty of time we dropped into another pub called the Grapes, meeting several more ship-mates inside. So having another drink about six of us left about ten minutes to twelve and got well into the docks and toward the vessel. With me and my mate were three brothers named Slade: Bertram, Tom and Alfred.
We were at the top of the main road and a passenger train was approaching us from another part of the docks. I heard the Slades say, "Oh, let the train go by". But me and Nutbean crossed over and managed to board the liner. Being a long train, by the time it passed, the Slades were too late, and the gangway was down leaving them behind. So it seemed they did not have to go."
The Slade brothers and their lodger Alfred Penney were unable to board the ship and listed as deserters.
Podesta was witness to the New York incident as Titanic left her mooring, when the nearby steamer New York nearly collided with the Titanic. He was also on deck when John Coffey deserted ship at Queenstown to visit his mother.
Nutbean and Podesta came off shift as fireman in the bowels of the ship on the evening of 14th April 1912 and made their way to the galley to eat. After leaving Podesta heard the crow's nest inform the bridge of ice ahead. The pair went foreward to look but saw nothing and the returned to their bunkroom and talked for a while before turning in. After the collision the pair attempted to wake other crewmen before Botswain Nicholls arrived to order men to their boat stations.
After assisting in lowering lifeboat 7 the men were ordered into a lifeboat by Officer Murdoch, most likely Collapsible D. The pair returned to England on the SS Lapland.
John Podesta married Daisy Florence Chives in 1913, the couple never had children. Podesta continued to serve at sea. He served during the Great War and was present at the evacuation of Gallipoli. Podesta once again found himself in trouble for sneaking a few drinks before leaving port after he was one of seven men to be punished for arrriving late and intoxicated to board a troop transport ship. This aside, he was demobilized in 1920 and earne the General Service and Mercantile Marine War medals.
We know that Podesta was still in touch with Betram Slade as they were fined for drunken disorder and stealing some bacon from a shop in 1921.
He took up work as a fitters mate in the docks and retired in 1958 aged 70. His wife passed away in 1964. When on a pensioners holiday in 1966 he met Helen Diaper, a widower and they married in October of that year. He had spent his life in Southampton and died in 1968. Helen passed away in 1975.
Primary source : Encyclopaedia Titanica