Miss Helen Ragnhild Ostby
Miss Helen R. Ostby, 22, was born on 30 November 1889 in Providence, Rhode Island the daughter of Engelhart Cornelius Østby and Lizzie May Webster (died 1899).
Helen was returning to America with her father after a tour of Europe and North Africa, they boarded the Titanic at Cherbourg, she occupied cabin B-36.
Helen and her father spent Sunday evening with Frank and Anna Warren whom they had previously met in Egypt during their recent tour.
Helen recalled that she had just dropped off to sleep when she felt the ship bump as if scraping the side of a tree.
By this time passengers were congregating in the corridors.
Helen recalled that there was no panic and people wandered around the deck trying to get news.
Helen and her father went up the grand staircase to the boat deck accompanied by the Warrens. Helen saw Captain Smith and some other oficers coming down the staircase, she thought they looked very sober, but did not talk to any of the passengers. On the boat deck the steam blowing from the pipes arond the funnels created a terrible roar. The group made their way to the starboard side of the boat deck, close to lifeboat 5, Engelhart decided to go back down to the cabin to get some warmer clothes, it was the last Helen ever saw of him.
With some difficulty the boat was lowered into the water, something Helen also described as "unpleasant" because of the dificulty the crew found in keeping the boat level as they adjusted the falls at each end of the boat.
Once they were on the sea it was clear that the Titanic was down by the head. Helen also noticed the pitch black night pierced only by stars. As they pulled away they could see the the lights of the Titanic gradually disappear. As a series of rockets were sent up those in the boat wondered whether any wireless distress messages had been sent.
Alone in the open sea Helen did not see anyone in the water but heard the terrible cries of those that had been left behind, it was a noise that would ring in her ears for the rest of her life. After a while there was quiet again. Helen and Mrs Warren sat side by side in the cramped boat, it was freezing. A few hours later the beautiful dawn revealed icebergs in the distance and the rockets of an approaching steamer.
When lifeboat 5 reached the Carpathia at about At 5.10 a.m. Helen was so cold that she was unable to climb the ladder, instead she was pulled up with a rope hitch. She was given hot tea and coffee in the dining room and then returned to the deck to watch the later boats come in, ever hopeful that her father might be among the survivors, he was not.
On board the Carpathia Helen met some friends from Providence, Mr and Mrs Walter M. Chapin who were on their honeymoon. They allowed Helen to use their cabin for the journey to New York. They tried to alert the family that Helen was safe but that her father was lost, but Cottam and Bride the Marconi telegraphists were too busy.
Helen returned to Providence and, once she was sufficiently recovered, turned her mind to the family business. In 1914 Helen, her brother Harold and one of his daughters became joint owners in Ostby & Barton. Later that year they travelled to Germany on a business trip. Harold and his daughter returned to America fearing a war but Helen stayed and when war broke out she managed to escape through Flanders, but she arrived in Liege on the same day as the German Army. Eventually she was able to escape to England, and travelled from there to America.
In 1930 she again travelled to Europe, staying in Paris and Brussels. She decided to remain in Brussels and lived there for ten years.
With the outbreak of war Helen remained in Belgium. In May 1940, she was awakened by bombs falling from German planes. The British and French troops withdrew and for five months Helen again shared a city with a German army of occupation. Eventually she fled to Lisbon where she remained for three months awaiting a plane for America, she arrived in Providence in January 1941. She never returned to Europe.
Helen reamined in Rhode island for the rest of her life and later worked as a volunteer at Rhode Island Hospital. Helen had many admirers but never married. She lived her last year at 500 Angell St. Providence, Rhode Island and died on 15 May 1978 aged 88. She was buried close to her father at Swan Point in Providence.
References and Sources
Philip Hind (Editor)
Phillip Gowan, USA
Per Kristian Sebak, Norway
Lisa Waller, USA
Leif Snellman, Finland
Related Articles and Documents
Titanic Passenger and Crew Summary
Name: Miss Helen Ragnhild Ostby
Cause of Death: Uræmia
Buried: Swan Point Cemetery Providence Rhode Island United States
Travelling Companions (on same ticket)
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