Stories of Titanic still full of life after 100 years

It’s a story that’s been told and retold for the past century.

The White Star Line’s 882-foot luxury passenger liner R.M.S Titanic left Southampton, England, on April 10, 1912, for New York on its maiden voyage.

On the fourth day, at 11:40 p.m., the Titanic struck an iceberg. Freezing water of the North Atlantic began to fill the ship’s compartments.

Some of the more than 2,200 passengers filled the 20 lifeboats on board. By 2:20 a.m., on April 15, 1912, the ship had broken in half and sunk. More than 1,500 people died.

One hundred years later, some in Snohomish County share personal connections to people who died in the disaster, helped survivors, have kept Titanic memorabilia and remain fascinated by the story of the ship that was thought to be unsinkable.

A decision to board

Brothers Archibald and Frank Randall worked for the White Star Line on various ships before the Titanic.

Archibald tried to convince his younger brother, Frank, not to work on the Titanic.

“He had bad feelings about it so he signed onto another ship two months before,” said Ed Powers of Marysville.

Despite being told not to, Powers said his great uncle, Frank Randall, joined as a saloon steward aboard the liner. His body was never recovered.

Powers, 82, said his grandfather’s decision to avoid the Titanic turned out to be a good one. However, his grandfather disappeared two years later while working on another White Star Line ship. The details of his death aren’t known.

Powers, too, had an interest in the sea, and, at age 17, signed up for a year in 1946 as a seaman aboard a cargo ship and circumnavigated the world.

Also aboard the Titanic was third-class passenger, Ole Olsen.

Everett man Bob Nydegger said his grandmother’s uncle was traveling back home to Broderick, Saskatchewan.

The 26-year-old had been visiting his grandmother in Norway and boarded the Titanic to come home for the spring grain harvest.

“He was most likely one of those who never made it out,” said Nydegger, 49.

He tried doing some research about his great uncle in high school but didn’t get very far. A trip to see “Titanic: The Artifact Exhibit” in 2001 at the Pacific Science Center in Seattle renewed his interest, Nydegger said.

“There was a piece of the hull and his name was on the hull,” he said. “Ever since then, I’ve been on a mission to find out everything I can about the Titanic.”

It’s believed that Olsen gave up his seat in a lifeboat for a woman and child, Nydegger said. The whole Titanic story has inspired him to work on a screenplay about a small Norwegian family taking the White Star Line to court.

“My grandmother actually said it wasn’t worth (court),” he said. “No matter what happened it was not going to bring anyone back.”

Emma Edwards from the county of Hampshire in south England had passage to the United States booked on another boat at the time Titanic was set to leave Southampton. Judy Prince, 63, of Everett, said her grandmother considered changing plans after she ran into an old friend who’d booked passage on the Titanic.

“Her father told her she didn’t need to be changing her booking, so she didn’t,” Prince said.

Edwards never found out if her friend survived the sinking. Her original intent was to visit a sister and brother and then return home to England, Prince added. Edwards instead fell in love and stayed in the country.

Listening for survivors

Seventeen-year-old Lane Fyler was at his home in New Haven, Conn., on the night the Titanic sunk. The amateur radio operator picked up distress signals from the Titanic and the R.M.S. Carpathia, the ship that rescued survivors.

Fyler helped to decode and catalog the names of survivors and sent the information on to New York where families could be located, said his grandson, Robert Blakeney, 67, of Marysville.

Blakeney was about 8 when his grandfather told him about his role that night.

“That was a pretty big thing,” he said. “There were no emails, no Facebook and no good telephone service so it was just Morse code.”

Hearing the story from his grandfather and his mother led to his own interest in the Titanic story. “That event was unspeakable at that time,” Blakeney said.

A life after Titanic

Sixteen-year-old Nora O’Leary was one of about 700 people who survived the sinking of the massive passenger liner.

She boarded the Titanic in Queenstown, Ireland, the final port of call before heading toward New York.

“She was in steerage and I don’t know how she made it out,” said her niece, Anne Doohan of Camano Island.

Doohan, 74, remembers hearing the story while growing up in Cork, Ireland. The story was told by her father, Martin O’Leary. Her aunt didn’t enjoy talking about her experience on board the Titanic, she said.

Doohan’s father spoke about the worry he and other family members felt in Ireland, after hearing news of the sinking. His sisters sent a telegram to their parents in Ballydesmond, Ireland, letting them know that Nora was safe and sound.

Her aunt stayed in New York for nine years before returning to Ireland, Doohan said. She married a farmer, Thomas Herlihy, and together the couple had five kids. She died at age 94.

“She lived a very full life,” said Doohan, who at 18 traveled to New York and then settled in Seattle. “She was happy.”

News from 1912

Everett resident Frank Platt, 98, bought a copy of London’s Daily Mirror, printed April 16, 1912, while traveling in England about 40 years ago. He keeps the yellowed pages under glass in a wooden frame.

“The interesting thing is that the headlines and a lot of the information is absolutely wrong,” Platt said.

One article reads, “So many and so conflicting were the reports that reached London yesterday concerning the fate of the Titanic that until detailed and definite tidings come to hand it is difficult to establish much more than the all-important and outstanding fact that — Every man, woman and child on the great liner is safe.”

Platt also owns a copy of the Mirror from a couple of days later, on April 18, 1912.

“That got the story right,” he said.

Marysville resident Tami Bartlett, 52, came across her two tattered April 1912 copies of The Skandinaven Daily — a Norwegian-language newspaper from Chicago — about 10 years ago while on a trip to North Dakota to visit friends. She was given some old newspapers that were bought during a farm auction.

In the stack were papers dated April 17 and 18. Photos of the Titanic and its captain, Edward John Smith, were displayed prominently on the front pages.

“I was absolutely flabbergasted,” Bartlett said. “Unfortunately I can’t read a word of it.”

Bartlett watches the 1997 movie “Titanic” by director James Cameron every time it’s on television and visited the Titanic exhibit when it was at the Pacific Science Center in Seattle.

“I think it’s one of those things that people should never forget,” she said. “They should have just slowed down. They were on path to make it to New York in record time.”

A strong fascination

Nicolas D’ Andrea, 11, loves all things Titanic.

The Everett boy can quickly rattle off facts about the ship, memorized from his own collection of books and those he has checked out countless times from the library.

He knows the diameter of the ship’s propellers, the height of the four funnels, and that the wreckage is located 12,460 feet underwater. That’s 2½ miles, the Valley View Christian Academy fifth-grader explained.

“I practically memorized the Titanic,” Nicolas said.

His interest in the Titanic started about six years ago, when he first found out about the ship, Nicolas said.

He and his mother, Lisa D’ Andrea, looked for a toy replica of the Titanic but only found fragile models. So Nicolas, at age 7, built his own model of the Titanic out of paper mache, toilet paper tubes and milk cartons. A couple of years later, the boy also built one of the Titanic’s sister ships, H.M.H.S. Britannic, which struck a mine and sank in November 1916.

Nicolas said he didn’t understand at first how many people died in the sinking of the Titanic.

There were many lessons learned from the disaster, including the need for ships to carry enough life boats for all passengers and that stronger materials should have been used during construction of the massive liner, Nicolas said. One fact will always ring true.

“Never call a ship unsinkable,” he said.

Amy Daybert: 425-339-3491;

Model on display

The Everett Public Library plans to showcase a 6-foot model of the R.M.S Titanic. The donated model built by Timothy Anderson, an Everett artist who died in 2002, is set to be in the library lobby until April 25. The library is located at 2702 Hoyt Ave in Everett.

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