Miss Ethel Flora Fortune, 28, was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, 22 September 1883, the daughter of Mark and Mary Fortune.
She had already announced her engagement to a rising Toronto banker, Crawford Gordon I, when her parents invited her to join the family on a Grand Tour of Europe. Ethel agreed to postpone her wedding so that she could shop for a trousseau in Europe and chaperone her younger siblings, Mabel, Alice and Charles. In Paris she bought gowns from the leading fashion house, Worth. Her grandson remembers her as "one of those headstrong women who sets their own goals and then persues them vigorously."
She boarded the Titanic at Southampton as a first class passenger. She travelled with her parents and siblings. They occupied cabins C-23-25-27.
Ethel almost never made it off Titanic. Initially she thought getting into a lifeboat was a waste of time, and left her two sisters on deck to return to the comfort of her cabin. Back in her cabin, a steward informed her that her mother had gone on deck, and escorted her to a lifeboat (either 7 or 10), just as it was being lowered. She had to jump into the boat. "The people in the boat caught me," she said later. As Titanic sank Ethel was haunted by one last terrifying glimpse of her brother, Charles, "in the water, life jacket on, struggling to stay afloat." She couldn't possibly have seen him; it was too dark, and by the time Titanic went down the lifeboat was a mile away from the site. But the thought of Charles flailing about crying for some one to save him stayed with Ethel for the rest of her life.
She married Crawford Gordon in 1913. Seven years later they moved to Jamaica, and then to London, England when her husband was appointed manager of the Bank of Commerce in the U.K. Their first born son, Crawford Gordon II became head of the Canadian aircraft manufacturing plant A. V. Roe, and in the 1950's was responsible for producing the prototype of the Avro Arrow aircraft, at the time the world's most advanced military aircraft.
Ethel Flora Gordon (née Fortune) died in Toronto 22nd March, 1961 and is buried in Mount Pleasant Cemetery, Section 29, Lot 664.
(© Alan Hustak, Canada)