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Lillian Gertrud Asplund, at 99; the last US survivor of sinking of the Titanic

Lillian Gertrud Asplund, the last American survivor of the sinking of the Titanic in 1912, died Saturday at her home in Shrewsbury, Ronald E. Johnson, vice president of the Nordgren Memorial Chapel in Worcester, said yesterday. She was 99.

Ms. Asplund was 5 that early morning of April 15, 1912. She lost her father and three brothers -- including a fraternal twin -- when the ''practically unsinkable" ship went down in the North Atlantic after hitting an iceberg.

''She even said she saw the ship slip into the water," said Philip Maloof, her lawyer and close friend. ''She was the last one [left] in the world to actually see the disaster."

At least two other survivors are living, but they were too young to remember what happened. Barbara Joyce West Dainton of Truro, England, was 10 months old, and Elizabeth Gladys ''Millvina" Dean of Southampton, England, was 2 months old.

The Asplund family had boarded the ship in Southampton, England, as third-class passengers on their way back to Worcester from their ancestral homeland, Sweden, where they had spent several years.

Ms. Asplund's mother, Selma, and another brother, Felix, who was 3, also survived the sinking.

Selma Asplund told her daughter it was not good to talk about the catastrophe, and she rarely did. Instead, Ms. Asplund lived a quiet life, working as a clerk for an insurance company in Worcester. She never married and never got a driver's license.

Ms. Asplund and her brother, who also remained single, bought a home in Shrewsbury and moved their mother there, who was ill.

Selma Asplund died on the 52nd anniversary of the sinking in 1964 at age 91. Felix Asplund died on March 1, 1983.

After retiring, Ms. Asplund lived alone, gardening and watching soap operas on television. She continued to heed her mother's advice and rejected requests to talk about what happened on the Titanic.

Privately, however, Ms. Asplund opened up. Maloof, her lawyer, said she broached the subject voluntarily as the pair became friends.

''She told me that she saw her father standing on the Titanic," Maloof said. ''She didn't say specifically that she was in a lifeboat, but she must have been."

Still, Ms. Asplund refused to sit for interviews, even if they offered to pay her.

''Why do I want money from the Titanic," Maloof recalled Ms. Asplund saying. ''Look what I lost. A father and three brothers."

Three or four years ago, Ms. Asplund did talk to a reporter, Maloof said. Even then, she remained reserved, rebuffing the interviewer's requests to take photographs or tape record the conversation.

Ms. Asplund's mother described the sinking in an interview with a Worcester newspaper shortly after the accident, according to the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.

The family went to the Titanic's upper deck after the ship struck the iceberg, Selma Asplund said.

''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," 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."

Because they lost all of their possessions and money, the city of Worcester held a fund-raiser and a benefit concert that together brought in about $2,000 for the surviving Asplunds.

A memorial service is scheduled for Wednesday.

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