LONDON – When 2-month-old Millvina Dean arrived in New York with her mother and brother after surviving the Titanic sinking, city residents gave them a suitcase full of donated clothing to help rebuild their life.
Now, more than 96 years later, that gift is helping the world’s last Titanic survivor live out her old age.
Dean sold the small wicker suitcase, along with other mementos of the doomed ocean liner, at auction Saturday to help pay her nursing home fees.
The sale raised $53,906 – ten times the amount she had hoped to make. The suitcase alone sold for $18,650.
“It is a great amount of money. I am sure she will be very happy when we tell her the news,” auctioneer Andrew Aldridge said after the sale.
The items were sold as part of a larger auction of Titanic memorabilia put on by Henry Aldridge and Son in Devizes in southern England. Rare prints of the Titanic and letters from the Titanic Relief Fund were among the other items Dean sold.
Dean, 96, has lived at Woodlands Ridge, a private nursing home in the southern city of Southampton – Titanic’s home port – since she broke her hip two years ago. Although Britain has free health care, private providers such as Dean’s offer more comprehensive services for a fee.
The last American to have escaped the sinking was Lillian Asplund, who died in 2006 at the age of 99. Another British survivor, Barbara Joyce West Dainton, died last November at 96.