Rene Harris

M

Mike Shetina

Guest
I would like to start a discussion on Rene or Irene Harris. How did she break her arm, what about this whole thing about her dying in cmoplete poverty, etc. Please help!
Mike Shetina,
Thanks in advance.
 
A

Addison Hart

Guest
She slipped with walking about on the Grand Staircase landing while going to dinner, I believe.

God bless,
Addison Hart
 
May 12, 2005
3,109
1
108
I don't know if Rene Harris died poor but I have always heard so. She certainly wasn't the only first class passenger to end up on skid row. Lady Duff Gordon died impoverished (her funeral was partly funded by the Salvation Army) and I think Edith Russell was verging on destitution at the time of her death.
 
Dec 7, 2000
1,348
7
168
Rene prior to 1929 had most of her fortune in shares. With the stock market crash, her entire fortune went to dust. Since then I guess she never recovered financially.

As for her slipping, in her 1932 account, she claimed it was a cup cake. I don't have it with me, but I think she was leaving the reception room on B deck to go down to her cabin on C deck to dress for dinner, or this was some time after lunch. She slipped and broke her arm.

Judith Gellar has a nice chapter on Rene in her book "Women and Children First".

Daniel.
 

Ben Holme

Member
Feb 11, 2001
714
2
148
Rene's discovery that Henry B. Harris was badly in debt at the time of his death on Titanic must have been a painful "first blow" to her financial stability.

Regarding her accident. I have yet to read her "Liberty Magazine" acount, but I understand Dr. Henry Frauenthal, presumably coming from his cabin (C-88) was the first on the scene. He took care of her arm before handing over to Titanic's surgoen, Dr. O'Loughlin.

Regards,
Ben
 
Apr 16, 2001
441
1
148
Hi David,

From memory, I believe Rene's parents were Phillip and Rachel (Helzhein) Wallach. If I'm wrong, I would hope others can correct me.

I don't know what the living conditions were like back in the 1960s, but Rene's address on West 69th Street in Manhattan is NOT cheap by today's standards. Her apartment was just a short walk from Central Park and an average rent for an apartment there still runs you about $2,500.00 a month for a one bedroom space. I suspect Rene may have had some money left but nothing like she was accustomed to in years previous.

Walter Lord filled me in on many wonderful tales about Rene. The two were close friends. He related that she loved to walk and would seldom hail a taxi or use mass transit to get to her destination in Manhattan. On one occasion, she walked across Central Park to visit Walter at his apartment on East 68th Street. Walter's doorman phoned him to ask if he was expecting an old lady with a shopping bag down in the lobby. The doorman thought she might be homeless. When Walter came down, he couldn't believe it was Rene sitting in the foyer chair smiling. She simply told him, "Oh, I was in the neighborhood and wondered if you might want something." Walter made sure she was returned safely home by taxi! Walter said that if Rene needed to go to 42nd Street, off she went on foot! A friend of Walter's always used to see her carrying big shopping bags from her daily visits to the grocery store and on occasion would allow one of the store clerks to help her home. She loved New York and refused to live anywhere else. Toward the end of her life, she told Walter that she lived to be so old because she never let herself be idle. She was very active and attributed this to her length of years that ended peacefully in 1969 at the age of 93.

Just a bit of additional info to all - Rene Harris' final resting place is located in the beautiful Ferncliff Mausoleum in Hartsdale, New York. Buried alone in a single crypt at the top of a row, there were flowers placed at her grave during a visit I made this past summer. Interestingly, Rene is entombed near fellow Titanic survivor, Spencer Silverthorne, and very close to that of legendary screen star, Judy Garland. Beautiful music fills the endless halls and corridors and it is quite a peaceful setting for visitors to sit and reflect. I think Rene would have approved. Another Titanic survivor, Alice McCoy, is buried in the cemetery as well, ~ sadly ~ without any grave marker.

Regards to all,

Mike
 
Apr 16, 2001
441
1
148
Hi Mike,

Thanks for the kind words. Yes, it seems like an eternity since I've visited this wonderful site and I would like to thank you and everyone for your kind words of concern and support the past few months.

Hope you have a very happy holiday....

Regards,

Mike
 

Inger Sheil

Member
Dec 3, 2000
5,337
30
198
Welcome back, Mike.

One of the most interesting group of Titanic related items, still in the Lowe family's possession, is the set of nautical equipment presented to Harold Lowe by Rene Harris in recognition of his actions that night. Each item has a small plaque indicating that it is given to 'The Real Hero of the Titanic' in gratitude. Harris had twice unsuccessfully - on both the Carpathia and in NY - to induce Lowe to accept a monetary reward. Although he emphatically refused these offers, Harris finally achieved her wish to recognise his work that night when she sent the expensive nautical set (binoculars, sextant and telescope) to be presented at a ceremony in Lowe's home town of Barmouth. Lowe was very visibly moved when he accepted the gifts and spoke of Harris to the assembled townspeople. Handling and photographing these items was one of the more memorable experiences of my Titanic research, particularly knowing the story of the mutual regard that sprang up between two individuals who, on the surface, had so little in common but who obviously connected on another level.

When she wrote the Liberty magazine article many years later, Harris stated that she hoped that if by some chance Harold Lowe read the lines she wrote, she wanted him to know that she still regarded him as one of the finest men she had ever met.

No doubt she would have been very gratified to know that Lowe did receive a copy of the magazine article - it's still in his papers today.

~ Inger
 
Apr 16, 2001
441
1
148
Hi Inger,

What an interesting story about Rene Harris and Harold Lowe. I never heard about that before. I'm not surprised that Rene was so thoughtful in her expressions of praise. She seemed to be in touch with so many families of those who perished offering condolences and relating details of their loved one's last hours in spite of her own personal loss.

Some believe she went overboard with her expressions of sympathy and tales of just what happened that night, but the fact that she presented Lowe (not personally) with the nautical set, to my mind, demonstrates a genuine appreciation for the fifth officer's heroic efforts. After all, she was in collapsible D and was witness to Lowe's actions that sad night.

Thanks for sharing that, Inger. I can imagine the thrill of seeing and touching those historic treasures kept by the Lowe family. I hope you have a very happy holiday.

Regards,

Mike
 
P

Patricia Bowman Rogers Winship

Guest
And I have wondered for some time about the whereabouts of Rene's papers. It would be interesting to go through them and see if there is a response from Harold Lowe to her Liberty nagazine article among them!

Pat Winship
 

Inger Sheil

Member
Dec 3, 2000
5,337
30
198
G'day Pat - yes, I'd very much like to know if Harris's papers still existed, and if the article rekindled a correspondance between the two of them. Am still hoping to trace the Lowe side of the relationship through Lowe sources - yet another task for the New Year.

Mike, you're quite right that Harris' appreciation of Lowe's role in the rescue efforts ran very deep indeed. As you'd be aware, as early as the 11th May she had made a very public statement about her experiences in 'D' and her appreciation for his actions - her newspaper interview of that date was given very explicitly to express her admiration for his actions:

I have told this story because if Great Britain had only such seamen there would be no such disasters. And this was his first transatlantic crossing. He is the one hero of the survivors of the 'Titanic.' He is a brave, splendid youth, whom Great Britain should reward by instant promotion.

She seems to have been rather taken by the headline the newspapers gave the piece, 'The Real Hero of the Titanic', as this was the phrase she had inscribed on the presentation items.

Lowe's own reaction was very interesting. The Barmouth ceremony was certainly very emotionally charged (one can only imagine the impact of the newsreel footage of the Carpathia, Mackay Bennett etc with a hidden band playing 'Nearer, My God to Thee' on both Lowe and the audience). Lowe, until that point, had with perhaps one exception shown very little emotional distress - there was even an implied criticism in some reports about how little trace he showed of his ordeal. It was while saying a few short words about Rene Harris' kindness when he spoke briefly during the proceedings at the Pavilion that Lowe seems to have come closest to a public demonstration of his underlying emotional response to the disaster.

A very happy holiday to you too, by the way. We're heading off to parts Yorkshirish for Christmas, so will be gorging on Yorkie puds and hospitality.