Remembering three REALTORS® who met their fate on the Titanic

The Great Titanic Disaster (Library of Congress)

Sunday, April 15, marks 100 years since the sinking of the RMS Titanic.  Three REALTORS® were among the 1,500 people who were lost when the “unsinkable” ship struck an iceberg and sank in the North Atlantic.

The three men were all from Winnipeg, Manitoba — at the time nine Canadian real estate boards were part of the National Association of Real Estate Exchanges (now known as NAR). 64-year-old Mark Fortune was a former president and charter member of the Winnipeg Real Estate Exchange. He was returning from a European vacation with his wife, son, and two daughters. J. Hugo Ross and Thomson Beattie, both 36, were friends who had offices across the hall from each other in Winnipeg’s old Merchants Bank Building. Ross was also a former president of the Winnipeg Board, and Beattie was a business partner of the city’s mayor, R. D. Waugh. They had been traveling in Egypt and the Aegean Sea when Ross fell ill and they decided to return home early, booking passage on the Titanic.

According to the National Real Estate Journal, Fortune moved to Winnipeg in 1874 and entered the real estate business four years later. “Within the past ten years,” the Journal reported in May 1912, “he has been one of the most successful real estate operators in the city. Property which he had held for years became very valuable…he is said to have owned property in nearly all the principal blocks along Main Street and Portage Avenue.” Fortune served four terms on the Winnipeg City Council and was very active in Knox Presbyterian Church.

Ross had served as secretary of the Winnipeg Stock Exchange and attended the fourth NAR convention a year earlier, in Denver in 1911. Beattie took over management of the firm of Waugh and Beattie when his partner was elected mayor. “In many respects they resembled one another,” the Journal wrote of Ross and Beattie. “Both were typical opportunistic westerners, positive of the future of Winnipeg and western Canada.”

Fortune’s 19-year-old son Charles also perished in the disaster, while his mother and sisters were put off in lifeboats. A month later Beattie’s body was found with two others adrift in a collapsible life boat, and he was buried at sea.

At the national convention in Louisville two months later Fortune, Ross and Beattie were remembered in prayer by their fellow REALTORS®, who then voted for Winnipeg to host the 1913 convention.

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