Relatives seek closure at Titanic burial site in Halifax
Published Friday, April 13, 2012 6:14AM EDT
Howard Kallender drove more than 1,000 kilometres from Philadelphia to Halifax with his wife and three children to visit a grave he had never seen.
Located in the first row of Fairview Lawn Cemetery, it was the resting place of his great uncle Henry Allen, who perished in the sinking of the Titanic 100 years ago.
Kallender and his family were among more than 400 tourists who descended on Halifax ahead of the centenary of the sinking of the famed ship.
The Titanic left Southampton, England, bound for New York on its maiden voyage in April 1912. More than 1,500 crew members and passengers died when the vessel struck an iceberg and sank. Halifax played a central role in the disaster as bodies that were recovered at sea were brought to the city, which became the final resting place for 150 victims.
For Kallender, the visit to Halifax was about more than curiosity – he was seeking to fill a gap in his own history. Growing up in England, Kallender frequently heard talk of his great uncle and felt the lingering sadness that hung over the household.
"He left behind a widow and seven orphan children," Kallender said.
According to his death record, Allen was the 145th body recovered from the water. The simple document placed him at around 35 years old.
A stoker, Allen toiled below the lavish decks, shovelling the coal that propelled the Titanic.
The young man seemed to know the ship's fate and tried to improve his chances of survival in the frigid waters. The record states that Allen was recovered wearing "blue coat and vest; striped trousers; dungaree trousers; grey trousers."
The layers of clothing had long intrigued Kallender.
"He's got three pairs of trousers on. Now, is that because he knew what was about to happen?" Kallender asked.
But the layers could not protect his great uncle from the cold Atlantic.
"Henry Allen, died April 15, 1912. That's great uncle Henry," Kallender said to his children.
Too poor to have his remains returned to England, Allen's family had him buried in Halifax. Kallender was the first relative to visit.
"It's special," Kallender said.
"It's good for the children to understand a little of their family, their family history, and to understand how lucky they are these days, the lives they have compared to the life Henry Allen had -- a tough life."
With a report by CTV's Todd Battis in Halifax