Mr Albert Adrian "Bert" Dick, 31, was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, 29 July 1880, but was raised in Alberta when it was still a Canadian territory. He and a brother started a sawmill in Ponoka, and by 1904 they were so successful they began selling real-estate and commercial properties in Calgary. By the time Bert was 24 the Dick brothers had built the Hotel Alexandra on 8th Ave. S.E. (since demolished and replaced by a theatre), and the Dick business block on 9th St S.E., which still stands.
The Dick business block
Courtesy of Jason D. Tiller
On the day Titanic was launched, 31 May 1911, he married Vera Gillespie, who was born in Calgary in 1894. She was still a socially gauche teenager, so Bert took his wife on a belated honeymoon to the Holy Land, and to educate her, they made the Grand Tour of Europe. They had returned through London to pick up solid, serviceable reproduction antiques for their new Tudor-style home at 2211-7th St. in Calgary's affluent Mount Royal District.
2211-7th St, Mount Royal, Calgary
Courtesy: Alan Hustak, Canada
They booked passage home on Titanic as first class passengers. They boarded the ship at Southampton and occupied Cabin B-20 (ticket number 17474, £57).
Aboard ship, one of the younger stewards, a man by the name of Jones, took a shine to Vera, and much to Bert's annoyance, Vera flirted with him. They were also befriended by Thomas Andrews, and on the last night of the voyage the Dicks shared his table at dinner. Vera Dick was to say afterwards that she would always remember the stars that night. "Even in Canada where we have clear nights I have never seen such a clear sky or stars so bright."
The Dicks were getting ready for bed when the ship hit the iceberg, and felt nothing. They were made aware of the accident when the same steward who had taken a shine to Vera knocked on their door and told them to dress. "We would have slept through the whole thing if the steward hadn't knocked on our door shortly after midnight and told us to put on our lifejackets," Mrs Dick told a Calgary newspaper. Both were escorted to lifeboat 3 by Thomas Andrews who saw them off. According to Bert, and his wife were locked in a farewell embrace, when he was pushed into the lifeboat with her. As the boat jerked towards the water, the Dicks wondered whether it might not capsize and whether they might not be safer had they not left the ship.
When they returned to Calgary, Bert was ostracised because he had survived. His name was tarnished by gossip that he had dressed as a woman to get off the ship. His hotel business suffered, so he sold it and continued to make money in real estate. Vera studied music at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto, and was well known as a vocalist in Calgary. They built an elaborate brick staircase in front of their house that local gossip said was patterned after the Titanic's grand staircase, however it does not look anything like it. They had one daughter, Gilda.
The "Titanic Staircase"
Courtesy: Alan Hustak, Canada
Albert Adrian Dick died in Calgary, Alberta on 2 June 1970. His wife died in Banff, Alta. on 7 October 1973. Both are buried in Calgary's Union cemetery. Lot 4, Block 1, Section L.
(Courtesy: Alan Hustak, Canada)
Articles and Stories
Calgary Herald (1912)
Province of Alberta, Department of Health, Division of Vital Statistics, Registration Of Death
Alan Hustak (1999) Titanic: The Canadian Story. Vehicule Press, 1999, ISBN-1-55065-113-7
The Calgary Herald
John Clifford, USA
Gilda Van Norman (Daughter of Albert and Vera Dick)
Phillip Gowan, USA
Alan Hustak, Canada
Hermann Söldner, Germany
Jason D. Tiller, Canada