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)
Two very unlikely historical events find a common denominator within the Drew Family.
TIS members and their guests going to Belfast for the 2011 convention in May should have received an e-mail from president Charlie Haas that included an attachment of a fine booklet regarding Titanic-related activities in Belfast before, during and after the convention. If members did not receive such an e-mail, you may download the booklet at the link below. Please do send your e-mail address and itinerary to Revdma@aol.com so any last-minute information or announcements can be sent to you before your departure.
Website visitors not planning to visit Belfast are cordially invited to download the booklet using the link above, to see what they may be missing!
Titanicbooklet2011 (pdf file click-on link)
Frank Millet painted a series of Men in Uniform, which included his old friend Archibald Willingham Butt, aide to both Taft and Roosevelt. Frank Millet often stayed at Archie’s Washington home on G Street and the two travelled together to Italy before returning home on the Titanic.
Frank was concerned about Archie’s state of mind after the loss of his mother, and the marriage of Archie’s great love, Mathilde Townsend to another man. Butt was also distressed about political issues in Washington between Taft and Roosevelt. The trip to Italy to open a new school of art was to be a vacation for Archie Butt. The rest of their story is well-known, and the tragic outcome of the loss of both men.
The painting of Archie Butt was inherited by the grand -niece of Archie Butt, the former Margaret Morgan, daughter of Shirley Morgan and Arrington Butt (Archie’s brother’s one child). The feet have been cut off the portrait so the painting could hang over a mantle. Ultimately the portrait will find its way to Augusta, Georgia, to the art museum there.
Copy courtesy of owner, all rights reserved. For personal use only. May not be reproduced for publication in any form.
The following words written by Charles Haas on behalf of the TIS membership were read at the recent memorial service for Miss Millvina Dean. Thanks to David Hill of the British Titanic Society for conveying the sentiments of TIS and for arranging our memorial flowers. The photo taken by David Hill shown below is the arrangement sent to the church for the service, then on to Miss Dean’s nursing home after the service.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am profoundly saddened that I am unable to join you in celebrating the life of our dear friend Millvina Dean. I am deeply grateful to David Hill of the British Titanic Society for his willingness to read my words today.
Had fate not intervened, Millvina Dean likely would have lived a happy, productive life in the United States, where she, her parents and brother were bound aboard Titanic in April 1912. Her father’s tragic death canceled those optimistic plans. Though she would never know her father’s love, she, her brother Bertram, her mother Ettie and, later, her stepfather Leonard Burden were a loving family that moved on after the nightmare of that night.
What was Millvina like?
Sometimes, the simplest questions are among the most difficult to answer, especially when they touch upon both emotions and intellect.
Like so many other Titanic survivors, Millvina had a joie de vivre that somehow seemed a small compensation for the loss of her father when she was nine weeks old. She loved meeting people. Her ready smile made the most nervous child feel comfortable and, indeed, loved.
She had an amazing amount of patience, humbly explaining to press and public alike why she had no personal memories of that night in April 1912 – she was, after all, just an infant. I once watched her at a British Titanic Society convention’s “public” day, when she began an autographing session. The queue stretched across the room, out the door and down the hotel corridor. Some two hours later, she was still at it. Several times, convention staff, worried about her frailty, asked if she wanted to take a break. “Oh, no,” she said. “I can’t disappoint all these friends who’ve come to see me.”
She had a wonderful sense of humor. I was deeply honored several years ago to be asked to escort Millvina into the British Titanic Society convention’s gala dinner. As more than 150 watched our every step, Millvina grasped my right arm tightly for support, and whispered to me, “I do hope I’m not cutting off your circulation!”
Later that evening, a false fire alarm caused everyone to evacuate. We spent perhaps an hour in the chilly night air, as the fire brigade checked things out. Under a light in the hotel’s car park, Millvina, clad in the fire brigade’s thermal blanket, happily held court with all who approached – BTS members, fire brigade members, hotel staff — never minding the inconvenience or discomfort, and never missing a beat, nor an opportunity to converse with and learn more about others.
Millvina’s own personal optimism was one of her most endearing qualities. She brought happiness to every room. She spoke in bursts, her words bunched together, almost in a rush so she could offer another thought. Her sharpness and wit dazzled, right to the end.
Upon her return to England aboard the liner Adriatic in May 1912, she first experienced celebrity, although she didn’t know it. The Daily Mirror reported, “[She] was the pet of the liner during the voyage, and so keen was the rivalry between women to nurse this lovable mite of humanity that one of the officers decreed that first and second class passengers might hold her in turn for no more than ten minutes.” Yet somehow, nearly 70 years afterwards, she happily led a private life away from the spotlight. It was only in the 1970s that the world discovered Millvina.
She seemed surprised by the love and respect total strangers showed her and by the celebrity she enjoyed, but never sought. Millvina never seemed to mind the incessant intrusions on her privacy, from hucksters seeking to sell her autograph to insistent reporters worldwide who phoned at all hours.
As a Titanic historian, I had hoped to try to put Elizabeth Gladys “Millvina” Dean in some kind of historical perspective. “The end of an era” and other clichés came to mind. But in the end, all I know is this: The world was a better place while Millvina was among us. She is and will be deeply missed.
Her priceless lesson to all of us lives on: That even after experiencing the most profound tragedy— as she, her mother and brother did — a long life filled with love and friends, happiness and fulfillment, personal achievement and contentment, and even the admiration of a jaded world can be ours, if we wish it to be that way. That message of perseverance despite adversity is her final, most lasting gift to each of us.
“What was she like?” Each of us is privileged in life to meet truly unforgettable people whose love and spirit live on in our memories and our hearts. Millvina was one of those people. Rest well, Millvina, and thank you for 97 exceptional years, and for representing all of Titanic’s passengers and crew with wit, wisdom, compassion, selflessness, humor and hope. May God bless you. May you always be in our thoughts.
On behalf of the trustees and members of Titanic International Society, may I take this opportunity to express our sincere condolences to Millvina’s family, to her dearest friend Bruno Nordmannis, and to her many friends worldwide. Thank you.
Deborah Davies- Nursing home matron.
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