Sunday, February 14, 2010

Raising the Titanic

From the Times Ledger:

Were you ever curious about that home on 11th Street in Long Island City festooned with memorabilia from the doomed ocean liner Titanic? The opportunity to see it there has passed, but the collection of memorabilia, once curated by lifelong Long Island City resident Joe Colletti, is now in the hands of the Greater Astoria Historical Society.

After 55 years in that home on 11th Street, Colletti has tired of the neighborhood and moved to an apartment in Sunnyside. But he was at the historical society’s offices Monday cataloging the photographs, drawings, letters and other items related to the famed White Star liner that struck an iceberg on its maiden voyage and sank April 15, 1912.

Colletti’s fascination with the ship took off in 1984 when he began attending gatherings of the Titanic Historical Society. Shortly afterward he met survivor Eva Hart, who was 7 when her family embarked on the fateful voyage from Southampton, England, to New York City.

Hart also alerted Colletti to the fact that while statues and major monuments exist in Belfast, Liverpool and Washington, D.C., New York City has a small lighthouse and a small park on the Upper East Side, but no major memorial to the disaster. Colletti began decorating his home with souvenirs from the ship that he found at antique shops.

Two weeks ago, a woman called Colletti after not having walked past the house for a while.

“All of a sudden it was gone. She thought something happened to me,” he said, noting he moved from the neighborhood because he dislikes the ways the Hunters Point section of Long Island City is changing.

But while Colletti said he was not terribly sad to let the collection go, he does miss his survivor friends, the last of whom died last year.

“It was just their life, their time,” he said. “They went through the wars and they went through the Depression and everything. It was such an experience to hear how they managed. It’s a generation lost.”

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