Victor and Maria Peñasco y Castellana


Over the past 100 years, the love stories of the passengers on board Titanic have resonated and enchanted generation after generation. Some are well known, others have become just a footnote. But together they captivate and distinguish this maritime disaster from any other.   There were nearly a dozen couples on their honeymoon when Titanic began its journey across the Atlantic, including John and Nelle Snyder and Victor and Maria Peñasco y Castellana.  From different parts of the world, but both deeply in love, their stories are but just a sample of the heroics and difficult decisions that transpired between couples on that fateful night.

Fabulously wealthy and deeply in love, Victor Peñasco y Castellana, 24, and his bride of just over a year, Maria, 22, enchanted everyone they met aboard Titanic. Victor was a dashing, well-dressed young man who had inherited vast fortunes from both his father and grandfather.  Maria was a breathtaking beauty who seemed quite comfortable in the latest fashions, adorned with thousands of dollars of jewels the couple had bought while on a whirlwind honeymoon across Europe.  Soon they would be returning home to Madrid, where a fabulous apartment—three stories high with 44 terraces—was nearing completion.  In early April 1912 the couple was in Paris, where they made the last-minute decision to end their honeymoon with a trip to New York on the world’s newest and most luxurious liner. In an effort to conceal their trip from Victor’s superstitious mother—who had warned the newlyweds that an ocean voyage would bring bad luck—the couple left Victor’s butler Eulogio in Paris, where he would send pre-written postcards weekly to Victor’s mother so that she would be unaware of the trip and not worry about them.

Victor and Maria had just returned to their cabin and when they felt the collision Victor rushed out to see what had happened. When he returned, he told Maria to dress at once. Victor, taking no chances, quickly secured a place for Maria and her maid in Lifeboat 8. They were rescued hours later by the Carpathia. Victor, however, perished in the disaster, and his body was never recovered. Meanwhile Victor’s mother, still receiving postcards from Paris, had no idea her son had died. Eventually his mother, Purificacion, found out through a story in the Madrid newspapers—but the story of the Peñaso’s had not yet ended. Under Spanish law, a person could not be officially deceased until 20 years had passed if no body could be produced. This would keep Maria from inheriting her husband’s fortune. And so a plot was hatched— Purificacion, a wealthy woman in her own right—bribed officials to create a death certificate for Victor and have him “buried” in Halifax, Canada. Maria was able to inherit Victor’s fortune and, after spending six years mourning the loss of her beloved husband, she married Baron de Rio Tovia. She had three children while living the life of a wealthy Madrid matron—the life she had once envisioned living with Victor.

John and Nelle Snyder

Nelle Stevenson married John Pillsbury Snyder, grandson of the Pillsbury Company’s founder, in January of 1912. The young couple soon set out on a three-month tour of Europe. For the Snyders—John, 24, and Nelle, 23—the journey as first-class passengers on Titanic was the finale to their honeymoon and, surprisingly, their recent marriage probably saved their lives. As the Ship was sinking, some of the crew allowed newlyweds to board the lifeboats, along with women and children. The Snyders climbed into Lifeboat 7, the first to launch, and both survived. John and Nelle returned to the Twin Cities, where John owned a garage and automotive company on South 10th Street in Minneapolis. They settled into a recently-purchased home on Lookout Point and had three children.  In addition to his automobile businesses, John was vice president of the Millers and Traders State Bank, served in World War I, and was a member of the Minnesota House of Representatives from 1927 to 1929. He died in 1959 at the age of 71 while playing golf on the course at Woodhill Country Club. Nelle lived to the age of 93. The couple is buried in Minneapolis’ Lakewood Cemetery.