The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Father perished on board Titanic after kidnapping sons for new life in America

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HALIFAX - Michel Navratil picked up his sons from his estranged wife with the hope of giving them a new life in America, but tragedy took his life and put his children on the covers of newspapers around the world.

After separating from her husband earlier in 1912, Marcelle got custody of Michel Jr., 4, and Edmond, 2.

Leaving their mother's home in southern France, the two boys were taken by their father to Monte Carlo and then to London.

Buying three second-class tickets for America on the Titanic, Navratil assumed the name of Louis Hoffman, a friend who had helped him leave France with the two boys he had kidnapped.

Shortly after the ship struck an iceberg on April 14, panic broke out and Navratil realized he wouldn't make it onto a lifeboat, but his two boys could be put on someone's lap.

When Michel Navratil visited his father's grave in Halifax for the first time in 1996, he remembered his father's last words as: "Please tell your mother I loved her very much. I was hopeful she could join us."

Michel and Edmund would be taken into the care of a woman from New York, and the two became known as the "Titanic Orphans."

With news of the orphans making its way around the world, their mother recognized the boys in a photo and the White Star Line brought her to America to accompany her children back home.

Edmund went on to become an interior decorator before serving in the French army during the Second World War. Held as a prisoner of war, his health suffered and he died at the age of 43.

Navratil's body was found by the cable ship Mackay-Bennett. Listed as Hoffman on the manifest, Navratil was buried in the Baron de Hirsh Cemetery, a Jewish cemetery in Halifax.

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