The last Titanic survivor sails off into the sunset after years of anonymity
June 2, 2009
ELIZABETH GLADYS MILLVINA DEAN, TITANIC'S LAST SURVIVOR
12-2-1912 — 31-5-2009
MILLVINA Dean, the youngest passenger on the Titanic and the last living link with history's most famous sunken ship, has died at a nursing home in Hampshire, England, aged 97.
Born in London, she was about eight weeks old when she and her brother Bertram, aged 23 months, set sail in third class on Titanic with their parents, Bertram snr and Georgetta.
The Deans, who had sold their London pub and planned to open a tobacco shop in Wichita, Kansas, were originally booked on another White Star liner, but a coal strike prompted a transfer to the Titanic, on its maiden voyage.
Titanic set sail from Southampton on April 10, 1912, and was south of Newfoundland's Grand Banks on the night of April 14 when it struck an iceberg.
Millvina and her mother, who had lost track of her son in the panic and chaos, were seated in lifeboat 10 and were among the first steerage passengers to escape the sinking liner.
Millvina was so tiny that she had to be lifted into the lifeboat in a postal sack. Their boat drifted in the water for several hours before they were rescued and taken aboard the Carpathia, a ship that had answered the Titanic's distress call.
Somehow, Bertram jnr was already aboard the Carpathia, which arrived safely in New York on April 18.
Dean's 27-year-old father was among the more than 1500 passengers and crew who perished. After two weeks in a New York hospital, Dean's mother and her children returned to England aboard the Adriatic.
As a baby who had survived the Titanic tragedy, Millvina attracted a great deal of attention.
Passengers aboard the Adriatic lined up to hold her and take her picture. She and her brother were largely educated with funds from charity organisations dedicated to Titanic survivors. It was not until she was aged eight and her mother was planning to remarry that she discovered she had been a passenger on the ship.
During World War II, she was a cartographer for the British government, and later worked in the purchasing department of a Southampton engineering firm. She retired in 1972.
Dean played down her connection with the storied ship until just a few years ago. She ignored the books, movies, clubs, websites and submarine tours of the ship disaster after it was found in 1985, at a depth of 3750 metres in the Atlantic Ocean. Her anonymity ended in 1987 when she attended a memorial service in Southampton on the 75th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic.
Last year, she announced that she was struggling to pay the costs of her room at the nursing home where she lived. Earlier this year, she auctioned off several of her remaining Titanic mementoes, including the mail sack in which she might have been rescued. It sold for about $5970. Don Mullan, an Irish author and photographer, was so moved by her plight that he challenged Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio, stars of the 1997 blockbuster Titanic, along with the film's director, James Cameron, to come to her aid. Last month, the three made substantial donations to the Millvina Fund, set up by her friends.
Dean became the last survivor in October 2007, when Barbara Dainton, another child survivor, died in England, aged 96.
By JOE HOLLEY