Mr Richard Paul Jozef Pfropper1 was 19 March 1882 Breslau, Germany2 (modern-day Wrocław, Poland), the son of August and Anna Pfropper.
Little is known of his early life and he first left Germany aged 17 in 1899, sailing aboard Ophelia from Hamburg on 15 July that year and later arriving in London. He was described as a waiter and it was stated that he had no military experience.
At the time of the 1901 UK census he was living as a boarder at 292 Victoria Dock Road which runs alongside the giant docks in London's East End; he was then described as an unmarried ship's steward.
He signed-on to the Titanic on 6 April and gave his previous engagement as being aboard the New York, the same ship that Titanic almost collided with upon leaving Southampton. Giving his local address as 8 Washington Terrace, Southampton, Pfropper came aboard the Titanic on 10 April 1912. As a second class saloon steward he could expect monthly wages of £3, 15s.
On the night of 14 April 1912, after the Titanic collided with an iceberg, Richard Pfropper headed for the boat deck, probably in the company of fellow saloon steward William Ryerson. At lifeboat 9 an officer asked Ryerson, “Can you handle an oar? Then in you go!” Ryerson and Pfropper took seats in the lifeboat and were later rescued by the Carpathia.
He boarded the Lapland along with other surviving crew on 20 April 1912 and, upon arrival at Plymouth, made a statement to the British Authorities. He received 15s in outstanding wages. He was not required to give evidence to either the American or British Inquiries into the disaster but did receive expenses of £9, 9s with regards to the latter.
Pfropper, who never married, continued working at sea but later migrated in November 1914 and settled in New York for good, stating Southampton as his last permanent residence. He was described as standing at 5' 7½", weighing 140lbs and with grey eyes, brown-grey hair and a fair complexion, sporting a scar above his right eye. In 1924 he petitioned for US citizenship and was by then living at 162 11th Avenue, New York. By then he was going by the name Richard Proffer.
In 1929 Richard applied for a US seaman's protection certificate; at the time he was employed as a porter aboard SS Creole.
Richard Pfropper in 1929, alongside his left thumbprint. From US seaman's protection certificate
On the 1930 US merchant seaman census, Richard was described as a porter and still living at 162 11th Avenue, Manhattan. By 1940 he was living as a lodger at Socony Varnum Oil Company in Manhattan and described as an unmarried seaman baggage porter. Two years later, at the time of his WWII draft, he was living at the Seaman's Institute at 507 West Street, Manhattan. In 1947 he was listed as a seaman aboard the SS Cities Service Koolmotor travelling from Linden, New Jersey to Tampico, Mexico.
During the 1950s he liaised with Walter Lord during the author's research for his book about the Titanic disaster, A Night to Remember, published in 1956. In 1958, along with several other Titanic survivors, he attended the New York premiere of the book-turned-film.
Richard Pfropper died in Manhattan, New York on 25 February 1964. It is currently unknown as to where he was laid to rest.