Last Titanic survivor dies, aged 97

Sun May 31, 2009 11:29pm EDT
 
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LONDON (Reuters) - The last survivor of the 1912 sinking of the "Titanic," Millvina Dean, has died in a nursing home in England at the age of 97, the Titanic International Society said on Monday.

Dean was just nine weeks old when her family sold a pub they owned in London to travel on the maiden voyage of the passenger liner and begin a new life in Wichita, Kansas, in the United States, where her father Bertram hoped to open a tobacconist shop.

Her father was one of the 1,517 people who died after the supposedly unsinkable ship hit an iceberg in the Atlantic and sank.

Dean, who was wrapped in a sack to protect her from the cold and lowered into a lifeboat, was the youngest of the 706 Titanic survivors. Her mother Georgetta and two-year-old brother Bertram also survived, dying in 1975 and 1992 respectively.

Dean, who never married, said she had no memory of the disaster but was told of the event at the age of eight when her mother was about to remarry.

It wasn't until Dean was aged in her 70s that she became a Titanic celebrity, appearing at conventions, exhibitions and in documentaries and other media about the ill-fated ship.

The Titanic International Society said on its website that Dean passed away in her sleep early Sunday at a nursing home near Southampton. She was recently released from hospital after a bout with pneumonia.

Last month the stars of the Hollywood blockbuster movie "Titanic" -- Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet and the film's director James Cameron -- donated $30,000 to support Dean in her last years after it was reported that she had resorted to selling her autograph to pay her nursing home bills.

The 1997 drama "Titanic" made more than $1.8 billion at the worldwide box office, making it the highest-grossing film of all time in figures not adjusted for inflation.

(Writing by Belinda Goldsmith, Editing by Jon Boyle)

 
<p>Millvina Dean peers through a porthole from the Titanic September 29, 1994. Dean has died in a nursing home in England at the age of 97 the Titanic International Society said on Monday. REUTERS/Simon Kreitem</p>