EDHS News and Updates

"Survivor Story": Mary Vrba

Chicago, Illinois -- Mary Vrba was an employee at Western Electric Company when she boarded the Eastland on July 24, 1915, and survived the catastrophe.

Mary was born on December 8, 1894, in Adams County, Wisconsin to Victor and Anna (nee Uher) Vrba.

When the Eastland capsized, a man, who saw the disaster unfold from an office building on the Chicago River, helped save Mary’s life when he threw her a life preserver. She grabbed the life preserver and swam to the dock.

When people asked her about the disaster, she modestly replied, “I was soaking wet, I got on board a street car, and I went home.”

On September 3, 1919, Mary married Edward E. Lippert, moved to Elmwood Park, Illinois, and they had three children: Donald Edward (died two days after he was born in August 1924), Glenn Edward (born on April 25, 1926), and Carol Ann (born on October 5, 1929). Glenn fought in the Pacific Theater during World War II with the Navy. While Glenn was fighting off the coast of Japan, Mary, Edward, and Carol embarked on a Lake Michigan cruise on August 8, 1945. In the middle of the lake, Edward suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and died before they reached shore to get him medical attention; he was 49 years old. Glenn received leave to return home for the funeral, but unfortunately, he arrived the day after his father’s funeral.

According to Glenn, Mary rarely spoke about the Eastland Disaster. The combination of her traumatic experience on the Eastland, Glenn’s Naval career, and Edward’s death on Lake Michigan contributed to Mary’s fear of the water.

Mary passed away at the age of 87 on February 26, 1982. She is buried in Forest Home Cemetery in Forest Park, Illinois.

 

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