On the morning of July 24, 1915, Ralph Brizzolara and his brother Charlie headed for the Chicago River to board the Eastland. They were to meet Ralph's good friend, George Halas, on board. George was delayed at home, and arrived to see the disaster.
Like so many survivors, Ralph spoke very little about the tragedy. He and Charlie were both puled through a porthole and brought safely to shore. Neither of them knew who saved them. After calling his mother to tell her that they were safe, Ralph offered a prayer of gratitude and made a promise to himself to never board a boat again.
A few years later, forgetting his promise of "no more boat rides," Ralph joined the U.S. Navy. God saved him a second time, for Ralph never left the Great Lakes Naval Training Station. He was stationed at Great Lakes for the duration of his tour of duty, working on an engineering project for which he had background training at Crane Tech High School and Western Electric.
As the years passed, Ralph married and began raising a family. He realized that it was important for his family to have a healthy respect for water while at the same time being able to enjoy the pleasures that come with being in, on, and around it. So Ralph's self-imposed promise of "no more boats" was abandoned, his fears were buried, and his family grew up enjoying the water and the many fun activities it has to offer.