The last survivor of the Titanic: "her heart was in Branscombe"
CLOSE relatives of the last survivor of the Titanic, who died last week, have spoken of her zest for life and love of Branscombe- her birthplace. Described as a lively soul Elizabeth Gladys Dean, known as Millvina, died in a Woodlands nursing home in the New Forest on Sunday, May 31, aged 97
CLOSE relatives of the last survivor of the Titanic, who died last week, have spoken of her zest for life and love of Branscombe- her birthplace.
Described as a 'lively soul' Elizabeth Gladys Dean, known as Millvina, died in a Woodlands nursing home in the New Forest on Sunday, May 31 at the grand old age of 97.
Born in Culverwell House in Branscombe just two months before the Titanic set sail on its fateful journey, Millvina always considered the village to be her real home.
Her father, Bertram Dean, was born and bred in Branscombe but moved to London and married Millvina's mother, Ettie.
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When Millvina was born, her parents and two-year-old brother, also called Bertram, were visiting Branscombe to say goodbye to their family before leaving for a new life in America where they were planning to open a tobacconist.
But tragedy struck when the Titanic hit an iceberg on April 14.
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The Dean family were steerage passengers, but Millvina, her mother and brother were among the first to be put in lifeboats. Her father perished onboard.
After the disaster Millvina settled in Southampton for the rest of her life, but often visited her family in Branscombe, including her cousins Ivor Dowell, now 82, and Brian Dowell, 71.
Ivor, who fondly remembers Millvina, known to him as Girlie, said: "When I was going to school she used to come down and stay with us often. When she was down it was like her home-she used to love it."
Millvina visited Branscombe throughout her childhood and her adult years, and she would always rent a chalet on the beach.
The owner of the Fountain Head pub, Archie Gill, even proposed marriage but she declined the offer.
Marie Dowell, Ivor's wife, said: "There were a lot of people she liked visiting such as the bakers and the colliers and she used to know the boat man on the beach.
"She was a very lively soul and very bubbly. She liked everything around her."
Millvina, who worked as a secretary in Southampton, looked after her mother until she died at the age of 95.
Marie, 72, added: "I think she would've moved here-she said it would be the place to move-but her mother lived till an old age and she was the main carer."
Millvina did not have much to do with Titanic enthusiasts until after her brother died in April 1992, when the limelight turned to her.
She started travelling a lot and America and Canada were among her favourite places.
But Branscombe was always on her mind and she made frequent visits up until she was in her 80s.
Millvina's health started to deteriorate and, after breaking her hip, she decided to move to a nursing home three years ago.
A fund was set up by Titanic enthusiasts to pay for Millvina's nursing home costs and both Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio, who starred in the 1997 film 'Titanic', donated towards the cause.
Ivor and Marie's daughter, Dawn Squire, 43, and her family last visited Millvina in February.
Dawn's husband, Richard, 47, and their children, 12-year-old Laura, and Christina, 16, took Millvina to a local pub where she was in 'good spirits'.
Richard said: "Her heart was in Branscombe. She was hoping to come one last time."
EXTRACTS FROM A RECORDING OF MILLVINA RECORDED BY CHRISTINA SQUIRE IN FEBRUARY:
* Family - Aunty in millers lea
Some of Millvina's fondest memories were about her childhood holiday's staying with her Aunty in Millers Lea, Branscombe. Her family roots were in Branscombe, with her grandparents, father Bertram Dean and cousins born and bread in Branscombe where two cousins currently still live today.
* Travelling on the QE2, looking at a notice to see who was giving the lecture that night and realising it was meant to be her
Millvina was walking the decks of The QE2 a few years ago with Bruno (her life companion) and saw a poster about the lectures on board the ship that evening. She had said to Bruno 'I wonder who is taking the lecture tonight. It might be interesting!' It was only after a closer inspection of the paper she later realised it was her who was meant to be giving the lectures that evening! So she did what she did best and just talked about her whole life with the stories I expect she was still telling until she died.
* David Beckham, front page of the paper.
A national news paper phone up Millvina a few years ago, and asked if she would be on their front cover in a picture with David Beckham. She was appalled that had even thought to ask her. When we visited and she retold the story and said 'why would I have wanted to be photographed with him he's only footballer!' But only this year when we were discussing it she realised he might have wanted a photo with her as he could have been interested in her life and the titanic.
* Wanted to visit Devon and Branscombe one last time
Branscombe was in Millvina's words 'my real home' this to her is a place where she could relax with family. She loved being in the Devon country side and always enjoyed a pint or sherry at the fountain head! She wished to visit Branscombe one last time, but with how full her diary was she never had a chance to.
When ever we saw Millvina she would always be an array of teddies she was sent or had bought from the various countries she had visited. When any one talked to her she was always bubbly and full of life and would love to chat about her adventures of the past few years.