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Last Titanic survivor sells items to pay bills

The last survivor of the Titanic disaster on Saturday sold mementos of the doomed ocean liner at auction to help pay her nursing home fees.
Britain Titanic Survivor
Millvina  Dean's century-old suitcase sold for $18,650.Ben Birchall / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

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.

Elizabeth Gladys "Millvina" Dean was only a baby on the night of April 14, 1912, when the Titanic hit an iceberg four days out of port. The ship did not have enough lifeboats for all 2,200 passengers and crew.

Dean, her mother Georgetta and brother Bertram Jr. were among 706 people — mostly women and children — who were rescued by the steamship Carpathia. Her father, Bertram Dean, was among more than 1,500 who died.

Dean says she remembers nothing of the disaster.

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.