'Titanic' survivor who never spoke of tragedy dies at 99

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The Independent US

The last passenger on the Titanic who was old enough to remember the horror of watching the ship sink in the icy waters of the north Atlantic has died, aged 99.

Lillian Gertrud Asplund was just shy of her sixth birthday when she and her large family made the ill-fated passage on the maiden voyage of the supposedly unsinkable ship. She lost a father and three brothers, including her twin, in the disaster. She, her mother and her younger brother, meanwhile, were invited to take their places in one of the first lifeboats - only realising later that there would be no escape for those they had left behind.

The family was on its way back from Sweden, its ancestral home, to western Massachusetts, which is where Ms Asplund lived the rest of her life. She worked as a clerk for the State Mutual Life Insurance company, never married and never uttered a word publicly about her ordeal.

At various times, she was approached by Titanic history buffs and even offered money to speak about it but she always refused.

Some of the family story was nevertheless recounted in the immediate aftermath of the disaster by Ms Asplund's mother, Selma.

She, Lillian and two-year-old Felix were met at Union Station in Worcester, Massachusetts, by a reporter from the local paper who coaxed her into recounting her experiences. Selma Asplund described how the family made their way to the Titanic's upper deck after the ship struck an iceberg.

"It was cold and the little ones were cuddling close to one another," she said. "My little girl Lillie accompanied me, and my husband said, 'Go ahead, we will get into one of the other boats.' He smiled as he said it." The last thing she remembered of her husband Charles was seeing him wave with a handkerchief.

According to the Worcester Telegram & Gazette newspaper, Selma Asplund was eaten up with guilt for the rest of her life about leaving the rest of her family behind and she never stopped wearing black.

Lillian and Felix bought a house together in Shrewsbury, a small town outside Worcester, and nursed their mother there until her death in 1964, at the age of 91. Felix Asplund died in 1983.

Lillian was still living at home at the time of her own death. She was so adamant about avoiding the topic of the Titanic that she even requested omitting all mention of it in her obituary.

There are two other known survivors of the Titanic still living but both were just infants and too young to remember anything. Both live in England: Barbara Joyce West Dainton, who lives in Truro, and Elizabeth Gladys Dean, who lives in Southampton.