Oliver Wendell Rudin


...his young son was placed into care...

Fern Lee (Gaylord) and Oliver Wendell Rudin were from Lafayette, Indiana, and had recently moved to Oak Park, Illinois, with their 11-month-old son Gaylord Oliver. Married nearly five years, the young couple planned to attend the picnic, and left their young son home with a nurse. When Fern and Oliver arrived downtown for the picnic, they were among the last to board the Eastland.

When the Eastland began rolling into the Chicago River, Oliver had Fern wrap her arms around his neck and they jumped into the water below. When they surfaced, they saw scores of bodies plunging into the water around and on top of them. The couple was knocked down below the surface of the water, and when Oliver resurfaced, he was no longer clutching his wife but unknowingly had brought a different woman to the surface with him.

Oliver was pulled from the river by a passing boat, but he immediately removed some of his heavy, soaking wet clothes and began diving back into the river in an attempt to find his wife. After several unsuccessful dives into the general location where she had been, he was finally forced to quit his fruitless search.

Fern perished in the tragedy, and following her death, her young son was placed into care with Fern's mother.

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