Last American to remember Titanic sinking dies

May 8, 2006

BOSTON (Reuters) - The last American to remember seeing hundreds of fellow passengers drown in the icy North Atlantic when the Titanic sank 94 years ago has died at age 99, a funeral home spokesman said on Sunday.

Lillian Gertrud Asplund was returning home to the United States from Sweden with her parents and four brothers when the ship, believed to be "unsinkable," struck an iceberg on April 14, 1912 and sank a few hours later on April 15. A U.S. Senate report said 1,523 people were killed.

Asplund died at home, a spokesman for the Nordgren Memorial Chapel, in Worcester, Massachusetts confirmed.

A lifetime resident of Massachusetts, Asplund was an intensely private person who shunned all publicity surrounding the disaster, one of the worst peacetime maritime accidents.

The funeral home spokesman said she instructed relatives to keep quiet about what she saw and even asked that the disaster not be mentioned in her obituary.

The two last Titanic survivors are said to be living in England but both women were infants when they were rescued and have no memories of that disastrous night, Titanic experts say.

Asplund lost more than half her family in the accident when her father and three brothers stayed behind as crewmen rushed the young girl, her younger brother and their mother into a lifeboat.

"We went to the upper deck. I could see the icebergs for a great distance around ... It was cold and the little ones were cuddling close to one another and trying to keep from under the feet of the many excited people ...," Asplund's mother told the Worcester Telegram & Gazette in an interview decades ago.

"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."

Asplund's mother, younger brother and uncle returned to the United States five days after the Titanic sank, the newspaper reported at the time.

Asplund never married, worked as a clerk at an insurance company and spent her life caring for her mother, reported the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, which republished her mother's recollections of the disaster on Sunday.