Millvina’s longtime friend and companion Bruno Nordmanis; Una Reilly of the Belfast Titanic Society; Derek Burke, Lord Mayor of Southampton; Ron Dean, Elva and Paul Gannoway (Millvina’s cousins) and David Hill of the British Titanic Society pause before the plinth at the center of the garden
On the third anniversary of her passing, and the 101st anniversary of Titanic’s launch, the memory of Titanic survivor Millvina Dean was honored on May 31, 2012 by the dedication of the Millvina Dean Memorial Garden, located near the entrance of the new SeaCity Museum in her hometown of Southampton, England.
Millvina Dean Memorial Garden opens in Southampton
By Charles Haas
During a simple, dignified service before Southampton’s civic officials, Millvina’s family members and a crowd of about 40, Millvina’s longtime companion and friend Bruno Nordmanis removed a White Star Line flag to reveal a granite plinth in the center of the oval-shaped garden. Fittingly, the marker’s shape resembles that of the stones for Titanic’s victims in three Halifax cemeteries, but is taller. It bears the inscription:
This garden is dedicated
in memory of
the youngest and final
2 February 1912 – 31 May 2009
“Have a kind heart and
a sense of humour.”
The ceremonies were opened by David Hill of the British Titanic Society, an administrator of the Millvina Fund, which underwrote the project with a sizeable grant, who spoke of Millvina’s vibrant personality. Fellow Fund administrator Una Reilly MBE of the Belfast Titanic Society also offered remarks, and then read a statement from TIS president Charlie Haas, the final Fund administrator, who was unable to attend.
Charlie wrote in part, “…Millvina loved life. To her last days, her vitality, her warm sense of humor, her pragmatism and her joyous philosophy served her well, and endeared her to all. Today, as we dedicate this lovely garden in her memory, we symbolically see some of the elements that made Millvina so special. There are the flowers and plants she knew and loved; benches that encourage conversations and friendships between people; a central pathway that suggests moving on in one’s life, and on the central plinth, her simple yet profoundly reassuring advice to us all, ‘Have a kind heart and a sense of humour,’ engraved in a stone which itself reflects her amazing endurance.
“As was so clearly shown during observances of Titanic’s centennial just six weeks ago, the world shall never forget the Royal Mail Ship Titanic, her passengers and crew. Nor shall we ever forget the remarkable lady named Elizabeth Gladys Millvina Dean, whose life and love we celebrate today, and for all time.”
David Hill and Una Reilly, administrators of the Millvina Fund, reflect on two years’ work bringing the garden to fruition. TIS President Charlie Haas, also a Millvina Fund administrator, regrettably was unable to attend the dedication ceremonies on May 31, the 101st anniversary of Titanic’s launch, and the third anniversary of Millvina’s passing.
Councillor Derek Burke, the Lord Mayor of Southampton, then officially opened the garden, and The Rev. Dr. Julian Davies, Rector of St. Mary’s Church in Southampton, blessed the garden.
The project was the result of more than two years of close cooperation and planning between the Fund’s three administrators, the Southampton City Council and the city’s Leisure Department. The garden is enclosed in an alternating-green-and-gold privet hedge, and flowering plants designed to touch multiple senses with color, aroma and texture. Curved benches at either end offer places to rest. The garden is bisected by a sidewalk that enjoys frequent foot traffic from those approaching the city’s Civic Centre, where the SeaCity Museum has opened in a new wing, and an adjacent area once occupied by the police department and law courts.
The Millvina Fund originally was intended to assist Millvina with her nursing home costs, and actors Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet and Titanic director James Cameron joined hundreds from around the world who contributed to the fund. Following Millvina’s passing, and with approval from almost every donor, its purpose was refashioned to fund the garden project.
A green and gold privet hedge and flower beds surround an elliptical open space that includes two restful benches.
(all photos courtesy of David Hill)