BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) - John Crafton, born and raised in southern Monroe County, was a last-minute passenger on the doomed Titanic.
And his decision to return from Europe early, aboard that shining new ship instead of the Kaiserin Auguste Victoria set to depart from Germany a week later, set his fate.
The 53-year-old man was among the 1,517 passengers who went down with the ship; his body was never recovered. A stately tombstone in Bloomington's Rose Hill Cemetery marking his death sits at the head of an empty grave.
"Lost on the Titanic" is etched in the stone he had set 15 years before his death. His wife and two sons are buried there as well.
"He had been traveling overseas with a friend and had been gone three months. He was homesick," said Hillary Detty from the Monroe County History Center, which has a display case devoted to Crafton and the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic.
"So he arranged to exchange his ticket." He paid 26 British pounds for first-class passage, which would be about $2,300 today, Detty said.
Crafton, a rich man, didn't start out that way. He hung around the local train station as a youth, where he got work as a conductor and then as a train master. He later developed a few stone mills in the Smithville area before turning his interest to the lumber industry.
A few years before the Titanic disaster, he and his wife had moved to Roachdale in Putnam County, according to local newspaper accounts from April 1912. He had traveled to central Europe seeking hot springs mineral water treatments for his rheumatism; it's not known if he found a cure or not.
Back at home, his wife Sallie found out her husband had sent his brother a telegram saying he was returning early aboard a different steamship that was departing from Southampton, England. When she learned it had struck an iceberg and had sunk three miles to the floor of the sea, she refused to believe her husband had not survived.
For weeks, she remained hopeful, imagining him walking through the front door. But as time passed, it became clear John Crafton was never coming home. A 1999 headline in The Herald-Times detailing his story summed it up: "Man's yearning for home proved fatal."
His widow sued the Titanic's White Star Line over her husband's death, but lost her case, Detty said.
"He wasn't supposed to be on that ship," Detty said. "It was hard for her to accept that this could have happened."