The sign is easy to miss, the story behind too poignant to forget.
Katherine Jelinek of Mesa, Ariz., is shown with photos of her great-grandparents Frank and Anna Warren, both of whom were first class passengers on the Titanic. A photo of the Warrens’ daughter, Frances, Jelinek’s great aunt, is on the right. Jelinek was at the Titanic Dinner and Artifact Show in La Grande this weekend. Photo/JOHN LAMOREAU
The inauspicious placard is in east Multnomah County on Interstate 84. The sign directs drivers to Warrendale, a small community named in honor of the late Frank Manley Warren, a pioneer fish packer and a prominent Portland resident — a man best remembered by some for the tragedy and heroism of his final hours.
Warren and his wife, Anna, were passengers on the Titanic, the only ones from Oregon with first class tickets.Anna Warren survived the sinking of the Titanic in the Atlantic on April 15, 1912, but her husband did not. Frank did not board his wife’s lifeboat. He instead stayed behind to help others, and perished.
Katherine Jelinek of Mesa, Ariz., knows this story well. Frank and Anna Warren were her great-grandparents — relatives Jelinek never knew but ones whose story she wants others to embrace.
“I am proud of my family heritage,’’ said Jelinek, who grew up in Portland.
Jelinek helped rekindle memories of her great-grandparents last weekend when she visited La Grande to attend the fourth annual Titanic Dinner and Historic Artifact Viewing, put on by Foley Station and John Lamoreau of La Grande. Jelinek’s presence at the dinner drew attention to her great-grandparents.
The couple, in their 60s, were returning to the United States after a three-month trip to Europe to celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary. The Warrens were among 2,224 people aboard the Titanic, 1,513 of whom perished.
Jelinek said in La Grande Sunday that she remembers family stories recounting how her great-grandmother thought her husband, who had been right behind her, would also be boarding her lifeboat. A letter written by the Warrens’ daughter, Frances, to friends weeks after the tragedy vividly describes what her mother endured.
Anna Warren found herself “caught on a limb’’ while being lowered to her lifeboat, according to Lamoreau in a piece he wrote about the contents of the letter. Anna Warren, while trying to free herself “in the utter darkness amid the deafening roar of escaping steam,’’ saw her husband turn back to assist other women and children who had climbed to the deck. She managed to free herself and while the boat was being lowered “that awful 70 feet to the water, not filled to its capacity.’’
She believed her husband must must have been on the other end of the boat. Anna called out Frank’s name, but he never replied. Anna and
others in lifeboats were picked up several hours later by the Carpathia, a ship whose crew picked up the Titanic’s distress signal via wireless telegraph and came to rescue its survivors.
Anna held out hope all the way back to New York that her husband had survived before learning that he had not. Her daughter poignantly described how beloved her father was and the anguish her family felt.
“It sometimes seems as if this ending must be an evil dream and that we cannot have lost our father, friend and comrade. Such he was to each of his children.’’
Frances Warren also said of her father, “He gave up his life as nobly as he always lived it ... ’’
Warren holds more than a distinction of having a town named after him and being a heroic passenger on the Titanic. He also was one of Oregon’s first baseball players. He was a third baseman for Oregon’s Pioneer Base Ball Club in 1866, according to Lamoreau.
Photos of Frank and Anna Warren were displayed in the artifact exhibit of last weekend’s Titanic event. The artifacts, all collected by Lamoreau after years of exhaustive work, filled the entire lower level of Foley Station.
The event was conducted Friday and Saturday with 120 people attending, about 80 percent of whom were from outside Northeast Oregon. People came, in addition to Arizona, from British Columbia, Idaho, Washington and even Arkansas.
Diners enjoyed meals that were authentic recreations of what passengers on the Titanic ate. Friday’s dinner was the one those with second class tickets had. The meal included plum pudding with sweet sauce, baked haddock with sharp sauce, roast potatoes and much more.
Saturday’s dinner replicated that of what was offered to first class passengers. It was an a la carte meal that included oyster ala russe, lamb with mint sauce, Waldorf pudding, poached salmon with mousseine sauce and more, all of which Frank and Anna Warren had had a chance to enjoy.
Lamoreau said Jelinek is the closest relative of any of the passengers of the Titanic who have ever attended the Titanic dinner. Lamoreau said it should have surprised nobody that her great-grandfather did not board a lifeboat in the early hours of April 15, 1912.
“The historic record shows that he always put other people first,’’ Lamoreau said.