Last survivor of Titanic dies at 97
Millvina Dean, who as a baby was wrapped in a sack and lowered into a lifeboat in the frigid North Atlantic and was the last survivor of the 1912 sinking of the RMS Titanic, died Sunday at age 97.
It was the 98th anniversary of the legendary ship's launch.
Dean died where she had lived — in Southampton, England, the city her family had tried to leave behind when it took the ship's ill-fated maiden voyage, bound for America.
She died in her sleep, her friend Gunter Babler told the Associated Press. It was the 98th anniversary of the launch of the ship that was billed as "practically unsinkable."
Dean was just over two months old when the Titanic hit an iceberg on the night of April 14, 1912. The ship sank in less than three hours.
Dean was one of 706 people — mostly women and children — who survived. Her father was among the 1,517 who died.
The pride of the White Star line, the Titanic had a mahogany-panelled smoking room, a swimming pool and a squash court. But it did not have enough lifeboats for all of its 2,200 passengers and crew.
Dean said her father's quick actions saved his family. He felt the ship scrape the iceberg and hustled the family out of its third-class quarters and toward the lifeboat that would take them to safety.
Lowered into lifeboat
"That's partly what saved us — because he was so quick," Dean said in 2002.
Wrapped in a sack against the Atlantic chill, Dean was lowered into a lifeboat. Her two-year-old brother, Bertram, and her mother, Georgette, also survived.
"She said goodbye to my father and he said he'd be along later. I was put into lifeboat 13. It was a bitterly cold night and eventually we were picked up by the Carpathia."
Dean did not know she had been aboard the Titanic until she was eight years old, when her mother, about to remarry, told her about her father's death. Her mother, always reticent about the tragedy, died in 1975 at age 95.
Dean moved into a nursing home after breaking her hip about three years ago. She had to sell several Titanic mementoes to raise funds, prompting her friends to set up a fund to subsidize her nursing home fees.
Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, the stars of the 1997 film Titanic, pledged their support to the fund last month.
For most of her life, Dean had no contact with Titanic enthusiasts and rarely spoke about the disaster. Dean said she had seen the 1958 film A Night to Remember with other survivors, but found it so upsetting that she declined to watch any other attempts to put the disaster on celluloid, including the 1997 blockbuster.
She began to take part in Titanic-related activities in the 1980s after the discovery of the ship's wreck in 1985 sparked renewed interest in the disaster.
Dean had no memories of the sinking and said she preferred it that way. "I wouldn't want to remember, really," she said in 1997.