Lillian Gertrud Asplund (October 21, 1906 – May 6, 2006) was one of the last three living survivors of the sinking of RMS Titanic on April 15, 1912. She was the last American survivor, and also the last survivor with actual memories of the disaster.
|Died||May 6, 2006 99) (aged|
|Parent(s)||Carl Asplund and Selma Johansson|
|Relatives||Filip, Clarence, Carl (twin) and Felix Asplund|
Lillian Asplund was born on October 21, 1906 in Worcester, Massachusetts, to Carl and Selma Asplund, both immigrants from Sweden. Her parents had lived briefly in Missouri prior to settling in Worcester. Lillian had a twin brother, Carl, and two older brothers, Filip, born in 1898 and Clarence, born in 1902.
In 1907, the family received word that Lillian's paternal grandfather had died back in Sweden. As her father was the executor of his estate, the family made arrangements to return to Sweden to settle the estate of the family farm, located near the village of Alseda in Småland. Lillian, her parents and three brothers sailed from Boston aboard the Cunard Line's Ivernia, arriving in Liverpool on July 4 from where they proceeded to Gothenburg before arriving at Alseda. The family remained at Alseda for the following 4 3/4 years while settling matters with the farm and caring for Lillian's grandmother, during which time Selma gave birth to another son, Felix in March 1909. By early 1912, the family was ready to return home to Worcester, and Lillian's father booked passage for his family on the new White Star Liner Titanic.
Lillian, her parents and four brothers boarded Titanic at Southampton, England on April 10, 1912 as third-class passengers. Lillian was five years old at the time and recalled that the ship "was very big, and it had just been painted. I remember not liking the smell of fresh paint."
When Titanic struck the iceberg at 11:40 pm on the night of April 14, 1912, Lillian's father woke his sleeping family and then put all important papers, including cash, into his pocket. Lillian, her mother and brother Felix were loaded into Lifeboat No. 15. Lillian later recalled, "my mother said she would rather stay with him [my father] and go down with the ship, but he said the children should not be alone. [My mother] had Felix on her lap and she had me between her knees. I think she thought she could keep me a little warmer that way." She later described the ship sinking as a big building going down and that she was haunted by the memory of the faces of her father and brothers at the railing of the ship while the life boat was launched.
Lillian, her mother and brother were rescued by RMS Carpathia, which had arrived at the scene shortly after four o'clock in the morning. Lillian and her brother were loaded into burlap bags and hoisted to the ship's deck. Aboard the Carpathia, Lillian remembered:
A woman took all my clothes off me. My clothes had gotten very dirty and wet in the lifeboat. My mother was trying to find me. She was saying, 'I have a daughter!' Well, she found me. And eventually my clothes were dry, and I put them back on. They took us, the children, to the place where they take people who are sick. Well, not sick, but people who needed a little more attention. The people on the Carpathia were very good to us."
Carpathia arrived in New York City on April 18. Lillian's mother took her and her brother to Worcester shortly thereafter. Lillian's father and brothers Filip, Clarence and Carl perished in the sinking.
In the confusion after the disaster, a Worcester newspaper reported that both Mr. and Mrs. Asplund had been saved, along with Clarence, Lillian and Felix, and that Filip and Carl had drowned. A later report said that Selma and her "two babies" had been taken to a local hospital, and that Mr. Asplund and Clarence were apparently at another location. A final report confirmed that neither Carl, Sr. nor Clarence were among the survivors. Carl, Sr.'s body was recovered by CS Mackay-Bennett and was later buried in All Faiths Cemetery in Worcester. As the families savings and possessions were lost in the disaster, a fundraiser and benefit was held by the city of Worcester, which brought in $2,000.
Lillian's mother never recovered from the loss of her husband and three eldest sons, and refused to discuss the disaster with anyone, saying that it was simply wrong to do so. Lillian agreed and, for the rest of her life, hardly ever spoke of the disaster. According to her lawyer when asked about why she refused interviews even when offered money, Asplund stated; "Why do I want money from the Titanic? Look what I lost. A father and three brothers."
She worked secretarial jobs in the Worcester area, and retired early to care for her mother. Selma died on April 15, 1964, the 52nd anniversary of the sinking, at the age of 90. Her brother Felix, who never married and with whom Lillian lived, died of pneumonia on March 15, 1983 at the age of 73.
Lillian's death left two living Titanic survivors, Barbara West and Millvina Dean; however, both were less than a year old at the time of the sinking and neither had any recollection of it. She was the last survivor who remembered the sinking, therefore upon her death first-hand accounts of the sinking of Titanic passed into history.
After her death, the steamship ticket she had held for so many years was sold at auction in 2009. It was a part of documents and items that were found in a safety deposit box after her death, that were connected to the disaster such as her father's pocket watch that stopped at 2:19 am.
- AP. "Titanic ticket belonging to last U.S. survivor auctioned", Daily News (New York). April 19, 2008.
- Microfilm images from archives of UK-bound passenger lists, accessed through Ancestry.com
- Brown, David (July 30, 2006). "The Last Witness". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 7, 2010.
- Hazell, Ben (2008-03-28). "Titanic survivor's secrets revealed". ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 2018-10-06.
- "Two of the Asplund Children are Lost". Worcester Telegram. April 19, 1912. Retrieved 2007-04-14.
- "Mrs Asplund and children safe in hospital at N.Y." Worcester Evening Gazette. April 19, 1912. Retrieved 2007-04-14.
- "Four of the Asplunds are Titanic Victims". Worcester Telegram. April 20, 1912. Retrieved 2007-04-14.
- Staff, From Times; Reports, Wire (2006-05-08). "Lillian Asplund, 99; Last U.S. Survivor of Titanic's Sinking". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved 2018-10-06.
- STAFF, Linda Bock and Scott Croteau TELEGRAM & GAZETTE. "Survivor held memory of Titanic in her heart". telegram.com. Retrieved 2018-10-06.
- Press, The Associated. "Lillian Gertrud Asplund, 99, Who Survived the Titanic's Sinking, Is Dead". Retrieved 2018-10-06.
- Lillian Gertrud Asplund, 99, Who Survived the Titanic's Sinking, Is Dead
- Recalling the Last Titanic Survivor
- Final American survivor of Titanic disaster dies (includes photo of Asplund)
Winnifred van Tongerloo
| Oldest living survivor of the RMS Titanic
July 4, 2002 – May 6, 2006