Chicago, Illinois -- The last known survivor of the Eastland Disaster, Chicago's greatest loss-of-life tragedy, has passed away. On Monday, November 24, 2014, Marion Eichholz passed away at the age of 102.
EDHS gives our deepest condolences and sympathies for the loss of this brave survivor.
Marion had just turned three years old a week earlier when she boarded the Eastland on July 24, 1915 with her mother Anna and father, Fred. Though young, her recollection of the day's tragic events was clear.
Her family was seated on the upper deck of the ship when it listed. Marion was standing by her mother's chair and fell against the railing. She recalled: "Mom pulled me back to her side. Mom began yelling, 'Run to the other side of the boat!' People began to panic, and women were running and screaming. Dad picked me up in his arms, stood on the railing, and jumped into the [Chicago] river. I believe he told Mom to go to the other side of the boat, but because there was so much panic, Mom stayed in her seat."
Someone threw Marion's mother a rope, and she was rescued. Her father swam with Marion in one arm. They were picked up by a nearby tugboat and brought to shore.
Marion recalled the aftermath of the Disaster: "Some of those who were rescued were brought to some of the buildings near the river. Dad brought me to one of them, and left me there while he went back home to put on dry clothes. He also planned to come back and look for Mom, as he was not certain whether she had survived. While he was getting into dry clothes, a car pulled up in front of the house, bringing Mom home. She went to bed to get warm and rest after such a trying experience. Mrs. Lainge went with Dad downtown to get me and bring me home. Someone had sat me in a chair and put a man's suit coat over me. Here I fell sound asleep. But I do remember waking up when Dad and Mrs. Lainge came. I do not remember the trip home at all, but I remember walking into the bedroom and Mom saying, 'Hello, Marion,' and she sounded happy to see me again."
Ted Wachholz, Executive Director and Chief Historian of EDHS expressed his condolences: "While we never had the pleasure of personally meeting Marion, we got to know her through a close relationship with her family dating back to 1999. And like we do with so many other families, we developed a natural bond and affection for Marion. Likewise, it was through Marion's connection to the Eastland Disaster that another, present-day family was added to our circle of friends. With Marion's passing, the last voice of Chicago's greatest loss-of-life tragedy now belongs to history."