PROVO, Utah — At a young age, Jeff Jensen learned about the RMS Titanic. Twenty-five years later, all things Titanic or Titanic-related have become his passion.
"I began studying it when I was 9 and haven't stopped," he said.
His mother and father believed parents should encourage their children in their interests, so when a teacher presented the Titanic as a part of world history to their son and Jeff's interest was piqued, they bought him a book on the Titanic — and then another and then another.
"The one analogy I heard was that the ship was compared to a floating city," Jensen said. "That got me asking questions and then I realized it really was like a microcosm of the world at that time in terms of the different classes and the representations on the hope and dreams of so many people wanting a better life and coming to America on the ship.
"As I looked at that analogy with the ship, it got me connected to the people and once I started reading about people, whether it was about the captain or the passengers in third class, the different classes. Understanding them is really what solidified my desire to study about it."
In 1992, when Jeff Jensen was 11, Bruce Jensen took his son to a Titanic convention in Boston.
"It's something he just took off with," his father said. "He spent a lot of time on that."
Bruce Jensen said there has been a marked interest in the Titanic given that it's the 100th anniversary of the April 15 sinking of the Titanic, but his son's interest extends beyond a whimsical curiosity. His dad might have had something to do with sparking Jeff Jensen's interest into deep study when, quite by accident, he won a bid on a replica of the RMS Titanic.
"They just started at $1,000 and it wasn't moving very well at all and I am a dentist, I work with my hands, I know how much work that must have taken," Bruce Jensen said. "I waved my hands enthusiastically — '$1,200' — and no one else bid on it."
"My dad actually didn't want to buy it," Jeff Jensen said. "He wanted to drive the price up because he knew the man selling needed money for his family."
Not just any replica, this 5-foot-6-inch replica is made of 50,000 matchsticks and 35 bottles of Elmer's glue and took eight years to build. Clyde Wicham used actual plans of the Titanic to build the model. The replica is inch per inch the Titanic, and the top of the ship can be removed so even the inside of the ship from the chandelier to the flooring can be seen.
Jeff Jensen said he remembers they had three hours to figure out how to get the model home on their plane.
"It's been 20 years now and we are glad that we have it," Jeff Jensen said. "I think it helps to spread interest in the Titanic."
A member of the Titanic Historical Society, Jeff Jensen has lectured on Titanic history for 20 years. He has traveled across the United States to interview survivors, historians and other enthusiasts and has published articles about the Utah connections to the disaster.
Once while giving a presentation at Morgan Elementary in Kaysville, a student asked him how many chicken eggs were on the Titanic, thinking there would be no way someone would know that answer.
Jensen gave the answer and moved onto the next question. The students were amazed. He is often asked back to Morgan Elementary and he says every time a student is put up to asking the same question. The answer remains the same — 35,000, according to the ship's manifest.
A Pleasant Grove resident, he met his wife, Alice, while giving a presentation on the Titanic. They have three sons — Tommy, 5 years old; Jonas, 3; and 1-year-old Ryker.
"He is really busy," Alice Jensen said. "He has gotten a lot of calls from students doing research papers asking questions."
She said when "Titanic" came out in 1997, Jeff Jensen was giving 20 lectures a week for a few months.
"I used to sit in the back for his lectures and every time I would learn something new because he doesn't use a script for his lectures," she said.
"I just try and gauge the audience," Jeff Jensen said. "It's amazing that after all these years, it's a story that still going strong even though there have been other shipwrecks, other disasters."
He said he likes to use the analogy that the sinking of the Titanic had a similar impact in history as the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, did.
"Up to that point, nothing really tragic globally had occurred until the Titanic sank, and then it was one disaster after another," Jeff Jensen said, citing World War I, the Great Depression, World War II and communism.
He has used the Titanic through his education and even into college. Jeff Jensen did a psychoanalysis for his psychology class on how the passengers reacted when they were faced with disaster. Titanic was a topic he used for his history classes.
The sinking of the Titanic taught him lessons not only in human behavior but in courage and grief.
"History can be fun and can suck you in," Jeff Jensen said. "I love sharing this with people. Most people don't know I am just an email or phone call away."
Information from: The Daily Herald, http://www.heraldextra.com