EDHS News and Updates

"Survivor Story": Two Couples Who Built Their Lives Together after the Disaster

Chicago, Illinois -- Today, we are commemorating two couples who not only survived, but also built their lives together after the Eastland Disaster: Bertha Wintermute and James Hays and Mildred Pavlik and Robert Boyte. 

Bertha Wintermute was a 23-year-old stenographer at Western Electric Company when she embarked on the Eastland with her 27-year-old fiancé, James Hays, and her 7-year-old niece, Hazel Myers. Less than a year after the disaster, on April 22, 1916, Bertha and James were married in Chicago. They had one child together: James Hays, Jr., born on July 25, 1922, in Chicago, and died on August 27, 2011, in Kewanee, Illinois.

James, Sr. died on September 22, 1923, in Chicago, and is buried in Forest Home Cemetery, located in Chicago, Illinois.

Bertha later remarried Morris M. Stephens. They lived in Berwyn, Cook County, Illinois, before relocating to Henry County, Illinois. Bertha died in February 1978 in Kewanee, Henry County, Illinois, and is in Galva Cemetery, located in Galva, Knox County, Illinois.

Mildred Pavlik was 17 years old when she and her 25-year-old boyfriend, Robert Boyte, an electrician at Western Electric Company, boarded the Eastland together. Robert’s 17-year-old sister, Celina, also survived the Eastland tragedy. Shortly after Mildred and Robert survived the Eastland Disaster, they wed on September 18, 1915, in Chicago. They had four children together: Robert George (1917-2007), Doris Marie (1918-2001), Lorriane Lucille (1919-1996), and Laverne Shirely (1922-2003).

Mildred died on June 23, 1958, in McHenry, McHenry County, Illinois. Robert died a few years later on March 10, 1962, and is buried in Wauconda Cemetery, located in Wauconda, Lake County, Illinois.



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