Ring belonged to man who died on Titanic

Published 10:22 am Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Leon Deshields looks over an 18-karat gold baby ring that once belonged to a man who died when the Titanic sunk 100 years ago. DeShields, 86, received the ring as an infant. GWEN ALBERS/TIDEWATER NEWS

FRANKLIN—This Sunday’s 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic prompted Leon Deshields to dig out a baby ring he received 86 years ago.

Story has it the 18-karat gold ring belonged to a man who was among the 1,514 to die after the British passenger liner sank in the North Atlantic on April 15, 1912, making it one of the deadliest peacetime maritime disasters.

“I don’t know if he was a crew member or a passenger,” Deshields said, noting he’s been doing research in hopes of finding an answer.

The dead man’s mother gave Deshields’ mother, Ethel, the ring after Deshields was born in 1925 in Beaver Creek, Md., near Hagerstown. The woman had given it to her son, but he gave it back to his mother for safekeeping sometime before the fateful voyage.

Deshields doesn’t know the woman’s name, but assumes she was a member of the church where his father, Zeph, was a pastor for three years in Beaver Creek.

“She gave me the ring as a baby,” Deshields said. “I’ve had it ever since. My mother kept it when I was in the service. When I got married in 1947, it was time for me to take it.”

A retired All-State Insurance agent, he remembers first hearing at about age 5 the story about the ring’s initial recipient dying on the Titanic. Now, Deshields wants to learn the name of the woman who gave the ring to his mother.

He obtained a list of passengers and employees from the Titanic and a list of members from his father’s church from 1923-1925. Deshields hopes the names will provide the answer.

During the last 60 years, he hasn’t given the ring much thought. Kept in a bank safe deposit box, the ring may be valued at $100, Deshields said.

“When it was bought, it was probably $20,” he said.