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01 June 2009 :: 15:06:12 pm 27754

Last Survivor Of The Titanic Dies

An era is over, the last and youngest survivor of the legendary ill-fated liner, The Titanic, died on May 31, 2009, aged 97, in Woodlands Ridge Nursing Home, near Southampton, UK, the port from which she and her family had commenced their voyage on April 10, 1912.
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Fate has indeed had a hand in the lives of the last surviving family. Millvina Dean, the last survivor died on the 98th anniversary of the launch of Titanic, on May 31, 1911, and her brother, another survivor, died at 81, in 1992 on the 80th anniversary of the Titanic?s sinking.

Born in London on Feb. 2, 1912, Elizabeth Gladys “Millvina” Dean and her family were third-class, steerage passengers out to start a new life, alighting in New York to continue to Wichita, Kansas, USA, where her father hoped to start a tobacconist?s. Had she been born slightly later, she would have been an American citizen. The family had sold their pub in London to be able to start a new life in America and to purchase tickets on the maiden voyage of the liner. Ironically, the family had originally booked on another White Star liner, but because the voyage was cancelled because of a national coal strike, they were offered berths on the Titanic.

Millvina was 9-weeks old at the time of the tragic sinking and has no recollection of the actual sinking, all that she knows was reluctantly told to her when she was 8 by her mother, who was about to remarry. “It was so awful for her that she never wanted to speak about it,” Millvina recalled. Georgetta Dean apparently suffered severe headaches every day for years after the Titanic?s sinking. The two children, Millvina, and her brother, Bertram, 2-months old at the time, and their mother, Georgetta,32, were three of the 706 survivors, but her father, Bertram, 27, stayed on board ship and was among the 1,517 who perished when the liner struck an iceberg in the North Atlantic, later sinking about 2:20 a.m. on April 15.

On their fourth night at sea, April 14, the family was awakened by a jolt when the ship struck the iceberg; an experience that was described by Steward, Frederick Dent Ray, as being ‘like a train being pulled up in the station’. Millvina relates “I think it was my father who saved us. So many other people thought the Titanic would never sink, and they didn’t bother. My father didn’t take a chance.” Millvina?s father, Bertram, returning from his investigation, told Georgetta to dress the children in warm clothes and take them to the lifeboat deck after which he would catch them up, but he never did.

Millvina was wrapped in a sack to protect her from the biting cold and lowered along with her mother into lifeboat 13, which turned out lucky for her. Her brother, however, was placed in another lifeboat and the family wasn?t reunited until both lifeboats were later rescued by the liner, Carpathia. The family was first taken to New York and then returned home, after a short spell in hospital, on the Adriatic. The journey was to be Millvina?s first celebrity experience as passengers, hearing of the family?s gruelling survival experiences , queued up to hold the youngest Titanic survivor .

The family then went to live with her parents near Southampton. Millvina and Bertram, her brother, were educated with help from a Titanic Relief Fund established for the surviving family members of victims of the tragedy. Millvina spent most of her life in Southampton, Titanic’s home port. She never married, and worked as a secretary, retiring in 1972 from an engineering firm.

Millvina adopted a similar approach to her mother, not agreeing with the title of one of the first Titanic movies ? ?A Night to Remember?, ignoring the books, movies, clubs, websites and submarine tours of the shipwreck after it was found in 1985, 12,500 feet under the surface of the North Atlantic. It was only in 1987 when she attended a memorial service in Southampton on the 75th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic that her story became publicised and she was invited by Titanic historian and author Don Lynch to speak at a Titanic Historical Society convention in Boston in 1988. After that she became famous, attending numerous Titanic-related events, was interviewed on radio and television, and was received hundreds of letters from interested members of the public. After 86 years of never again venturing to sea, she finally completed the voyage from Southampton to New York when she travelled on the Queen Elizabeth II, compliments of Michael Rudd, a Titanic enthusiast.

She still remained reluctant to be associated with the Titanic, however, even refusing an invitation from Prince Charles to go and see the 1997 opening of “Titanic,” the Academy Award-winning movie, the highest-grossing film of all time which broke all records making US$1.8 billion at the worldwide box office. The stars of the movie didn?t forget her though; when they learned that she had had to selling her autograph and Titanic mementos to pay her nursing home bills. where she lived after falling and breaking her hip, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet and the film’s director James Cameron donated $30,000 to support Dean in her final years.

Charles Haas, the president of the Titanic International Society, said of Millvena, “She knew her place in history and was always willing to share her story with others, especially children. She was the last living link to the story.”

Reporter : PDN staff   Photo : PDN staff   Category : World News

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