Sunday, May 07, 2006

Last American Titanic Survivor Dies at 99

Last American Titanic Survivor Dies at 99

By ANDREW RYAN, Associated Press Writer
2 hours ago

BOSTON - Lillian Gertrud Asplund, the last American survivor of the sinking of the Titanic in 1912, has died, a funeral home said Sunday. She was 99.

Asplund, who was just 5 years old, 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 died Saturday at her home in Shrewsbury, said Ronald E. Johnson, vice president of the Nordgren Memorial Chapel in Worcester, Mass.

"She went to sleep peacefully," he said.

Asplund's mother, Selma, and another brother, Felix, who was 3, also survived the Titanic sinking in the early morning of April 15, 1912.

Asplund was the last Titanic survivor with actual memories of the sinking, but she shunned publicity and rarely spoke about the events.

At least two other survivors are living, but they were too young to have memories of the disaster. 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.

Asplund's mother described the sinking in an interview with the Worcester Telegram & Gazette newspaper shortly after she and her two children arrived in the city.

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

"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 ... 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 fundraiser and a benefit concert that together brought in about $2,000 for the surviving Asplunds.

Lillian Asplund never married and worked at secretarial jobs in the Worcester area most of her life. She retired early to care for her mother, who was described as having never gotten over the tragedy.

Selma Asplund died on the 52nd anniversary of the sinking in 1964 at age 91. Felix Asplund died on March 1, 1983, at age 73.

A memorial service will be held Wednesday, Johnson said.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Petty, sponsors to help camp if voted into all-star

Petty, sponsors to help camp if voted into all-star

Coca-Cola, others to donate minimum $250,000 if Petty voted in
From Press Release
May 5, 2006
06:49 PM EDT (22:49 GMT)

CHARLOTTE, N.C -- Behind the wheel of a special MyCokeRewards racecar, Kyle Petty will continue his hard-driving campaign for the health and well-being of chronically ill youth.

Set to launch Monday in downtown Charlotte, the "Vote Kyle, Reward Victory Junction" campaign is a grassroots effort fueled by Coca-Cola and other Petty Enterprises sponsors to reward the man who has given so much of his time and effort to charity with a spot in the Nextel All-Star Challenge on May 20, 2006, at Lowe's Motor Speedway.

For the upcoming Coca-Cola 600, the No. 45 Petty Enterprises Dodge will feature a special MyCokeRewards primary sponsorship paint scheme. Petty also will carry the scheme in the Nextel All-Star Challenge on May 20 if voted into the race or if he wins the Nextel Open qualifying race.

With the support of Petty's friends, family, sponsors, NASCAR fans and members of the NASCAR community, the "Vote Kyle, Reward Victory Junction" campaign is geared toward creating a unique opportunity to continue Petty's tireless efforts to give back to kids.

Should Petty make the race through the fan vote, Coca-Cola -- along with Petty Enterprises sponsors Wells Fargo, Schwan's and Tire Kingdom -- are donating a minimum of $250,000 to support the ongoing efforts of the Victory Junction Gang Camp. Additionally, Petty and his Petty Enterprises team also will donate any purse money won in the Nextel All-Star Challenge to Victory Junction. If Petty wins the race, that's an additional $1,000,000 to Victory Junction.

Fellow NASCAR driver and Victory Junction supporter Michael Waltrip will be announced as Petty's campaign manager at Monday's rally launching the "Vote Kyle, Reward Victory Junction" initiative. Speakers at the event will include seven-time Cup champion Richard Petty, business executives and Charlotte mayor Pat McCrory. Also present at the rally, where race fans will get a sneak peek at the MyCokeRewards racecar Petty will drive in the Coca-Cola 600 and the Nextel Open, will be families and campers from Victory Junction.

"The 'Vote Kyle, Reward Victory Junction' campaign is the ideal way to salute Kyle for his devotion to Victory Junction and the many kids the camp serves," said Bea Perez, vice president of media, sports and entertainment for Coca-Cola North America. "Kyle has been a friend of Coca-Cola for a number of years, and we know he never thinks of himself first.

"By campaigning for Kyle to run the No. 45 MyCokeRewards Dodge in the Nextel All-Star Challenge, we can both honor Kyle and support Victory Junction's mission of providing care, comfort and opportunities to chronically ill children."

Voting for the Nextel All-Star Challenge is currently open, and fans are invited to cast a vote to help get their favorite driver into the event by text messaging a vote on Nextel/Sprint phones or voting online at NASCAR.COM. Voting will run through May 20 with the winner announced the day of the race.

Race fans interested in more information about the "Vote Kyle, Reward Victory Junction" campaign have been asked to go to a special Web site,

"What Coca-Cola, Wells Fargo, Schwan's and Tire Kingdom are doing to honor me and reward Victory Junction at the same time is really special, but also very humbling," Petty said. "The response from fans to what we have created through the camp been overwhelming, and I'll look to them to help get the MyCokeRewards car into the race and raise even more money for the ones who matter most -- the campers.

"If I make the race, you can be sure I'll do my best to bring home $1,000,000 to the kids."

The Nextel All-Star Challenge showcases race winners from the previous and current Nextel Cup seasons, plus the winner of the Nextel Open, a preliminary event for teams not qualified for the all-star event, and another Open driver who wins a fan vote into the all-star event. Both races will air on FX on May 20 at 7 p.m. ET

Bill's Comment: Again, the website is