WINTER HARBOR, Maine — The simple emerald ring that Ellin Dixon Miller wears every day was, 100 years ago on April 15, worn by her great-grandfather as he helped his wife into a lifeboat on the Titanic.
George Dunton Widener, 50, passed the ring to his wife, Eleanor Elkins Widener, before he and the couple’s son, Harry Elkins Widener, 27, went down with the legendary ship on April 15, 1912. Eleanor later gave the ring to the mother of Ellin’s father, F. Eugene “Fitz” Dixon, who willed the ring to his daughter Ellin when he passed away on Aug. 2, 2006, just days shy of his 83rd birthday.
“In terms of appraised value, it’s not worth a lot,” Ellin says. “But, in terms of sentimental value, to me, it’s priceless. My dad always wore it.”
For more than a century, Fitz Dixon’s family has been a summertime fixture within the Winter Harbor enclave known as Grindstone Neck. Like many of the other seasonal residents of Grindstone Neck’s opulent seaside “cottages” that overlook Frenchman Bay, the Widener-Dixon family is rooted in Philadelphia. For many years the patriarch of the Grindstone Neck community, Ellin’s father once owned the Philadelphia 76ers NBA basketball team and was a philanthropic force within Hancock County for decades, perhaps best known for his support of the Maine Coast Memorial Hospital in Ellsworth.
“It’s a round emerald, set in a simple, plain gold setting,” Ellin says of her ring. “Emeralds are a soft gem, so it has plenty of dings and dents. Its importance is not in its value. It has a pretty cool family history.”
Ellin, who now lives in North Palm Beach, said she’s eager to return from Florida to the cool breezes of Grindstone Neck this summer.
“My mother will be celebrating her 80th birthday this summer, and we’re planning a party,” she said.