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Survivor's story
[April 12, 2012]

Survivor's story

Apr 12, 2012 (The Honolulu Star-Advertiser - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- A century ago RMS Titanic grazed an iceberg, tearing a long, fatal slice in its hull. The mighty ship on its maiden voyage, advertised as "unsinkable," slipped beneath the frigid waves a couple of hours later, carrying with it the quaint Victorian notion that technology can tame nature. It was the real beginning of the 20th century.

Many famous people died, and those who survived became somewhat famous simply because they survived. It was also the dawn of celebrity journalism. One of 712 who escaped was Lucinda Parrish, also known as Lutie or Lucy Parrish, now buried in Oahu Cemetery.

Her final resting place was tracked down by indefatigable Titanic researchers Phillip Gowan and Hermann Soldner, who were creating profiles of the survivors for the website, and confirmed by cemetery personnel and historian Nanette Napoleon a little more than a decade ago.

The granite headstone reads simply: LUCY PARRISH Daughter of the House of Temple 1842-1930 MOTHER Rest Forever in the Light of His Love and the Depth of His Peace Napoleon said a small metal plaque that noted Parrish was a Titanic survivor has since disappeared. At 59, Parrish was the oldest person rescued -- the James Cameron film "Titanic" clearly shows a woman of Parrish's age being tossed into a lifeboat.

The birth year on the headstone is in error. Born July 16, 1852, in Lexington, Ky., daughter of William and Margaret Temple, she married Samuel Edward Parrish in 1870. Daughter Imanita, age 25 in 1912 and married to a man whose last name was Shelley, was traveling with her mother on a world tour that began in Japan and culminated in boarding the Titanic in Southampton, England, on April 10, 1912. They had relatives in London.

Most of what is known about Titanic's passengers is due to historian Phil Gowan of Tennessee, who shared his research for this article. Other historians think of the women as a couple of real characters.

"Lutie Parrish and her daughter seem to have been two ladies who managed, without a lot of money, to travel the world extensively, leaving their husbands behind to earn enough money to support their adventures," Don Lynch, author of "Titanic -- An Illustrated History," told the Star-Advertiser.

Apparently, ocean travel didn't agree with Shelley, who quickly turned green. It didn't help that "they started their voyage on the Titanic in one of the smallest second-class cabins on one of the lowest decks," Lynch said. Their cabin fare across the Atlantic was 26 pounds (roughly $3,000 in today's dollars).

According to naval historian Parks Stephenson, another Titanic expert, "the second-class passengers were literally the middle class ... the businessmen, teachers, small-business owners and the like. In the case of Lutie Parrish, though, here was an adventurer, someone who used her modest means to travel as much as she could." Describing their adventure to a newspaper later, Shelley complained, "What a shock we had when the steward took us down what seemed to be thousands of feet into the bowels of the ship and opened the door of a little cell -- I cannot call it a cabin -- and told us that that was where we were to stay!" Parrish made "11 trips to the purser's office demanding a better room, and it was only when her daughter threatened to go to the captain that they were upgraded," Lynch said. The ship's doctor prescribed bed rest for Shelley for the rest of the voyage.

A few minutes before midnight April 14, the sleeping women were roused by excited voices in the corridor. They noticed the distant susurration of the engines had stopped. A steward told the passengers to go back to bed but returned in a panic a few minutes later. Cork life belts were issued, and passengers were told to dress warmly and gather on the boat deck.

After 1 a.m. the ocean liner was down by the bow, and lifeboats were swinging away from the ship. Parrish was tossed into Lifeboat No. 12 by members of the deck crew, and Shelley leaped the chasm. An "Italian man" tumbled in after them, bruising Parrish.

Altogether, only 28 passengers were placed in a lifeboat built for 65. Most passengers perished in the icy water or aboard Titanic, which ripped in half while sinking. Lifeboats were tied together and survivors hauled aboard, overloading the craft. More than six hours later, they were rescued by the ocean liner Carpathia, which docked in New York City the evening of April 18. Thousands watched the bedraggled survivors troop off the ship.

Aboard the rescue ship, Shelley had tried to telegram her husband: "Mother I safe, Titanic sank midnight. Board Carpathia. Land New York Wednesday Thursday." THE PARRISH women also got a reputation for being social climbers. "On Carpathia, where it was easier to move about the ship, they mingled with first class," Lynch said. "And in her affidavit to the United States Senate, Mrs. Shelley unrealistically name-dropped none other than Isidor and Ida Straus of Macy's Department Store as friends who escorted them to a lifeboat." Sometime after the end of the Great War, the Parrishes and Shelleys moved to Ewa. There, again, the men worked while the women took another grand tour in the 1920s. Not much else is known about their life in the islands. Later a widow, Parrish suffered an aneurysm in 1930 and was buried in Oahu Cemetery. Shelley divorced her husband, married her hanai brother Jack Hall and moved back to the mainland. She died in 1954; her ashes are interred in Oakland, Calif.

Parrish's final resting place, a world away from the frigid North Atlantic, remained largely unknown until interest in Titanic was rekindled in the 1990s. At some point a small marble plaque was epoxied to her headstone, reading: DEDICATED TO THE MEMORY OF LUCINDA PARRISH SURVIVOR, R.M.S. TITANIC 14 APRIL 1912 FROM MICHAEL R. ROMERO No one seems to know who Romero is.

Oahu Cemetery office clerk Gloria Kiko says that visitors stop by regularly, asking where Parrish lies. One left a dummy Titanic life ring that Napoleon rescued from the elements.

Ironically, a century later, satellite navigation technology that would have helped save Titanic's lost souls is now used as a game. Parrish's grave site is a well-known "virtual geocache" location known as That Sinking Feeling. Geocache players use satellite-guided longitude and latitude GPS devices to locate specific sites around the world.

Recently, geocache players "Kathy & Mike" noted online that "We visited your grave ... it was a moving moment seeing your marker as a Titanic survivor." On the Net: ___ (c)2012 The Honolulu Star-Advertiser Visit The Honolulu Star-Advertiser at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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