Sunday, May 31, 2009

A Plight to Remember

Millvina Dean, who was the youngest and last survivor of the RMS Titanic, the luxury liner that sank in the North Atlantic in April 1912, died today at age 97. She was only nine weeks old when the ship went down, taking 1,517 people with it, including her father. As Wikipedia explains, in the spring of 1912
Millvina’s parents decided to leave England and emigrate to Wichita, Kansas, where her father had family living and where he hoped to open a tobacco shop. The Deans were not supposed to be aboard the Titanic, but owing to a coal strike, they were transferred to the ship and boarded it as third-class passengers at Southampton, England. Millvina was barely two months old when she boarded the ship. Her father felt the ship’s collision with the iceberg on the night of 14 April 1912, and after investigating, returned to his cabin telling his wife to dress the children and go up on deck. Millvina, her mother, and brother were placed in Lifeboat 10 and were among the first steerage passengers to escape the sinking liner. Her father [Bertram Dean], however, did not survive, and his body, if recovered, was never identified.
A BBC News report adds that
The family returned to Southampton [from which the Titanic had sailed on its fateful maiden voyage], where Miss Dean went on to spend most of her life.

Despite having no memories of the disaster, she always said it had shaped her life, because she should have grown up in the U.S. instead of returning to the UK.

She was fond of saying: “If it hadn’t been for the ship going down, I’d be an American.”
Since 2006, the final three survivors of that almost century-old disaster have all passed away. Lillian Gertrud Asplund, the last American to live through the sinking, died in May 2006 at age 99. Barbara Dainton (née Barbara West), who was just 11 months old in May 1912, went to her grave about a year and a half later at age 96. Millvina Dean struggled with expenses during her last years, and a fund was public set up for her continuing care, to which Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet--stars of the 1997 blockbuster film Titanic--both contributed. In addition, Ms. Dean raised money by selling off some of her Titanic memorabilia.

There’s a regrettably short video about Millvina Dean and her financial plight at the BBC site.

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