Our coronavirus coverage is free for the first 24 hours. Find the latest information at Please consider subscribing or donating.

  1. Archive

Mary Fay Hamilton, survivor of ship fire

Mary Fay Jenks Hamilton, one of the survivors of the Yarmouth Castle cruise ship that burned and sank in the Bahamas in November 1965, died Friday (June 30, 1995) at VA Medical Center at Bay Pines. She was 78.

Ninety people lost their lives on the cruise ship bound for Nassau.

Mrs. Hamilton suffered severe burns in the fire. Her left leg was amputated after a dangerous blood clot formed behind the knee.

Shirley Lundberg, her niece, said six weeks before Mrs. Hamilton went on the cruise, her husband, Morris, drowned in a fishing accident. Mrs. Hamilton, her son, Jonathan, 14, and his friend, Steve Wright, went on the cruise to help them overcome their grief. Both boys were killed.

"Still active in community functions and despite her losses and disability, Mrs. Hamilton continued her community service after she spent a year recovering," Ms. Lundberg said.

Mrs. Hamilton and her late husband owned and operated Gulf Beach Travel Service for many years on Madeira Beach and were active in civic affairs.

Ms. Lundberg said her aunt was instrumental in persuading the state to build the Madeira Beach Causeway when the old Madeira Beach Bridge was not strong enough to hold school buses transporting children.

Mrs. Hamilton tutored dyslexic elementary students, dressed hundreds of dolls for the Christmas Toy Shop and headed the food drive collection for her church, St. Anne of Grace Episcopal, until failing health curbed these activities.

Born in Monett, Mo., she moved to Charleston, Mo., at an early age. She graduated in 1942 from Washington University School of Nursing in St. Louis and served three years in the Army Nurses Corps. On the 12th day of the Normandy invasion, her hospital unit went onto Omaha Beach. She served in France, Germany and Belgium and received four battle stars.

At the end of the war in 1945, she came to St. Petersburg, where she continued her nursing career at VA Medical Center at Bay Pines.

In addition to Ms. Lundberg, survivors include four other nieces, Kathryn La Duke and Susan Bell of St. Petersburg, Bettie Stader Cornelius, Bradford, Pa., and Stacy Cornelius, Monticello.

A memorial service will be at 11 a.m. Wednesday at St. Anne of Grace Episcopal Church, 6660 113th St. N, Seminole. Burial will be at Memorial Park Cemetery. The family requests that donations be made in Mrs. Hamilton's name to St. Anne of Grace Episcopal Church. National Cremation Society, Largo, is in charge of arrangements.