Harry Elkins Widener

Of late much progress has been reported toward the creation of fitting memorials to some of those who lost their lives in the sinking of the Titanic last April.

First and foremost, the New York Times reports on the great success in raising funds to erect in Liverpool (the ship’s port of registry) a memorial to the engine-room heroes of the Titanic — the courageous men who stayed at their posts, knowing they would die, to continue to supply electricity to the ship as long as possible while efforts to rescue as many passengers as possible were made.

The Times writes of the plan to make the monument “of a commanding type, worthy of recording the deed of the engine-room heroes, sinking in silence at their posts.” One imagines this will be a most impressive memorial, a permanent marker of the best of which men are capable.  Perhaps the inscription will read: “The brave do not die. Their deeds live forever, and call upon us to emulate their courage and devotion to duty.”

Also planned in Godalming (30 miles southwest of London) is a memorial to Jack Phillips, the courageous wireless operator of the Titanic, with a much lower-key presentation, designed “as a haven for peaceful rest.”  One imagines that this memorial, too, will be equally fitting.

But perhaps the most practically consequential memorial to any Titanic victim is the memorial to Harry Elkins Widener under way at Harvard University. Harry, an avid book collector, was returning from a book-buying trip to London.  He was traveling with his mother and father.  Harry and his father George perished; his mother survived.  Shortly thereafter, his mother donated an astonishing $2 million to Harvard to build a new library, to replace the cramped, antiquated old library (Gore Hall) built in 1838. It will be named as a memorial to Harry and, in additional to providing space for millions of Harvard books, will permanently house Harry’s personal book collection. Demolition of the old library has already commenced. Surely when finished it will be an impressive sight. Mrs. Widener’s generous gift in memory of her son, one imagines, might be instrumental in the creation of the most important university library in the world, a fitting memorial to Harry Elkins Widener, indeed.

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