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A Titanic tribute

Apr 3, 2012, noon
Angie Antonopoulos holds memorabilia of her surprising connection to a Titanic survivor.

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RMS Titanic

By Brenda Evers & Sylvia Forbes

The RMS “Titanic” became the most famous ship in the world when it hit an iceberg in the middle of the Atlantic on April 15, 1912, during its maiden voyage from Southampton, England to New York City. Tragedy struck as the iceberg buckled the steel plating on the side of the ship, causing six compartments to flood. The brand new ship, though it incorporated many innovative engineering elements, could not handle flooding in more than four compartments at one time. Adding to the tragedy, the ship did not carry enough lifeboats for all to escape in before it sank.

As the world prepares for the 100th anniversary of the “Titanic’s” sinking, more stories about the lives of the survivors are being published and one Grand Junction family is finding out more about their ancestor, a private champion.

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Charles Williams

Champion lost at sea

Charles Eugene Williams was one of 700 survivors of the “Titanic.” Williams was a world champion squash player who rarely spoke about the event. But the sinking of the ship forever overshadowed his life.

Angie Antonopoulos co-owns Viaggio Salon and Spa, located at 1119 N. First St. Antonopoulos was watching an advertisement at a recent Academy Awards party for the 3-D remake of James Cameron’s “Titanic,” when she casually mentioned, “My grandfather was on the ‘Titanic.’ He is my children’s great-grandfather, really. His name was Charles Eugene Williams. I only know a little.”

That little was enough to start an Internet search that lead to documents and articles that pieced together Williams’ personal survival story and his career after the “Titanic” went down.

The ship’s booking records were merged into one list, which can be found online at www.encyclopedia-titanica.org. The list includes lifeboat records and personal interviews that were conducted on the rescue ship, the “Carpathia.”

While Williams was being interviewed for the records, he heard that the London newspaper sent the following telegram of his death:

“Champion at Racquets Lost” London, April 17---Among the Titanic’s passengers was Charles Williams, the professional racquet champion of the world who was on his way to New York to play Standing, the American champion for a stake of $5,000.

-By cable to the “Chicago Tribune” and published Thursday, April 18, 1912

With the day of the competition approaching, Williams quickly sent a telegram to the secretary of the Racquets Association, which read:

Match postponed; return next week. Williams.

-From the “Daily Sketch” (London). April 20, 1912

“Yes, we knew he played racquets,” Antonopoulos said. “He was something of a champion.”

Williams was more than “something of a champion.” Born and raised in England, he graduated from Harrow, one of the oldest schools in the country. After working there as the squash coach, he turned professional and became the world champion in 1911 and 1912.

At the time, the sport was in its infancy, but the world title was important enough for recognition in England, so Williams boarded the “Titanic” to New York to defend his title from American champ, George Standing.

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