William Rice: Spokane's Connection to the Titanic Disaster
A Tragic Connection to the Titanic
A heart shaped monument dedicated to William Rice recounts a tragic loss of a beloved father and husband. It was unimaginable, at the time of his demise, that William Rice would become Spokane's link to one of the greatest disasters of the twentieth century, the 1912 sinking of the RMS Titanic.
The story begins in 1892 in Athlone, County Westmeath, Ireland when William Rice and 19 year old Margaret Norton were married. The couple emigrated from Ireland to New York where William found employment with a railroad. In 1902 William Rice transferred to Montreal to work as a shipping clerk for the Grand Trunk Railway, managed by Charles Melville Hays, President. Tragedy struck the Rice family at about this same time when Frederick Thomas, their first born son, choked to death on a pacifier. Margaret gave birth to four more boys while in Canada, Albert, George Hugh, Eric and Arthur.
The Rice family moved to Spokane in 1909 where William went to work for the Great Northern Railroad as a machinist. They were blessed with the birth of one more son, Eugene Francis. Tragedy struck the Rice family again on January 24, 1910. At the railroad yard in Hillyard William was underneath a tank car making repairs when it was struck by another train car. William was badly maimed and taken to Sacred Heart Hospital where he succumbed to his injuries.
Soon after William's death Margaret received a substantial settlement from the railroad. This enabled Margaret to purchase William's gravestone and, on April 15, 1910 and disinter his body and move him to his present grave. Margaret Rice then packed up her five sons and returned to her family in Athlone, Ireland.
Since Margaret Rice owned property in Spokane, in the spring of 1912 she decided her children would fare better living in the United States and made plans to return. She booked third class passage aboard the Titanic.