Last Survivor of the Titanic – Millvina Dean

By admin • History • 2 Apr 2012

Elizabeth Gladys Millvina Dean was the last remaining survivor of the sinking RMS Titanic, who died recently on  May 31, 2009. Born on February 2, 1912, she was just two months old; the youngest passenger on-board Titanic at that time.

Millvina Dean story

Millvina Dean was born in Branscombe, England, to Bertram Frank Dean and Georgette Eva Light. She had a brother, Bertram Vere Dean, born 21 May 1910.  Her parents decided to leave England and move to Wichita, Kansas, where her father had family and his cousin was jointly going to -own a tobacco shop.

The family was not supposed to be onboard Titanic but due to a coal strike, they were forced to travel in the ship as third-class passengers from Southampton. Her father sensed the ship colliding the iceberg on that night of April 14, 1912, went to the deck and saw the scene and then returned to his cabin, to inform his wife to dress up the childen and move to a safer place along the deck. Millvina Dean, her brother and mother were able to save themselves as they were placed in Lifeboat 10. They were actually the first lot of passengers to escape from the sinking ship.  Millvina’s father could not make it, he died and his body was never identified, even it may have been recovered.

Dean’s mother was shattered, she did not know what to do. She could either go to Kansas and fulfil her husband’s business in the US or come back to England. After losing her husband and having two small children to take care of, she returned to England aboard the RMS Adriatic. Miillvina Dean attracted a lot of attention when she was in that ship. An article in the Daily Mirror on May 12 1912, even wrote an article on her with this excerpt. – “ 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”

Millvina and Bertram Dean were raised mostly on pension funds and educated in Southampton schools, including The Gregg School. Only when Milliva was 8 years old, she came to know through her mother who was going to remarry, that she was actually the youngest passenger on Titanic who was saved.

Millvina Dean worked for the British Government during the Second World War. She also joined other careers in the course of time, like working in a local engineering firm as a purchaser,  a secretary, a cartographer and an assistant to tobacconist.

Her mother died on September 16, 1975 aged 96 and her brother Bertram Vere died, aged 81, on 14 April 1992,exactly 80 years after the ship hit the iceberg.  Millvina never married and had no children.

When she was in her 70s, she immersed herself in events where she could speak about the Titanic.  She gave TV interviews, radio interviews, spoke in exhibitions, documentaries, conventions and also gave her inputs on magazine and newspaper articles on Titanic and its sinking.

In 1998, Dean was in the US to participate in a Titanic convention in Springfield, Massachusetts, and another in 1999 in Montreal. She couldn’t attend the 94th anniversary of Titanic in 2006 due to a broken hip bone. However, Millvina Dean appeared in the documentary Titanic’s Final Moments: Missing Pieces, shown on History Channel in 2007.   She became the last Titanic survivor after the death of Barbara West Dainton, who died at the age of 96 in England on October 16, 2007.

Millvina Dean criticized BBC and their entertainment segment program ‘Doctor Who’ for including an episode about a starship ‘cruise liner’ called the Titaninc which was similar  in appearance to the ill-fated ship, three years back.  Dean said from her hospital nursing home,”The Titanic was a tragedy which tore so many families apart. I lost my father and he lies on that wreck. I think it is disrespectful to make entertainment of such a tragedy.” The spokesoman on the show said that she intended no  offence and that the show ‘Voyage of the Damned’ was about  a spaceship named Titanic and not the boat.

Though, Dean was called in at Southampton to speak at an event commemorating the 94th anniversary of the sinking of the ship, her ill-health due to a respiratory infection prevented her from being  part of the event.

Meanwhile her medical expenses were mounting, Millvina Dean had to sell of her family’s valuables to pay for her private medical care following a hip surgery.  Some of these  included a suitcase given to her and her mother in New York following the ship’s sinking and a letter sent to her mouth from the Titanic relief fund; all of these added up to  £32,000.

She said that her medical bills were more than £3,000 a month and she said in February 2009 that she had to sell more items to pay for increasing medical costs. The 97-year-old Millvina Dean died of pneumonia on the morning of 31 May 2009 at a care home in Ashurst, Hampshire. This was exactly 97 years and seen weeks after the Titanic sunk.

Her remains were cremated from a launch at the docks in Southamptoin from where her family had boarded the Titanic on April 12, 1912. The Millvina Fund was set up in April 2009 by the Belfast, British and International Titanic Societies with the sole purpose of taking care of Dean’s medical bills.  Irish author and citizen journalist Don Mullan took the initiative at his his worldwide Nokia photographic exhibition, “A Thousand Reasons for Living’ where he displayed a portrait of Millvina Dean in Dublin on April 22, 2009.  He then sold the portrait of Dean’s hands ashe signed a card for the Titanic autograph collector and stated that he was going to sell only a limited edition of 100 copies at €500 apiece.

Don Mullan also persuaded the stars of Titanic movie and the production team to contribute including the companies Sony Music, 20th Century Fox and Paramount Pictures. Di Caprio and Winslet together contributed US$20,000. Cameron and Celine Dion donated US$10,000 each.

 Millvina Dean pictures


Related posts:

Titanic Heart of the Ocean
Titanic survivors list, stories
How did the Titanic Sink ?

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