A Stone for Oscar
On Saturday morning, March 28, 1925, Oscar L. Johansson Palmquist, Swedish immigrant and survivor of the R.M.S. Titanic disaster, was missing. The tall, slender toolmaker and machinist had dressed in his best suit, stopped in at his favorite neighborhood barber for a trim, and had departed in good spirits Friday night for a little fun at Walnut Grove, a nearby recreational spot. It had been a long week at the shop and he was looking for a little weekend relaxation.
Something went terribly wrong in the evening hours – something fatal and
mysterious. Oscar met with “misadventure.” Newspapers reported him missing.
Family soon became concerned. There was talk – and rumors. The days passed
with no answers, until one bright April Saturday morning, when two workers at
Beardsley Park found Oscar’s body floating about ten feet from the little island
at the reservoir’s south end. He was identified by papers in his suit pocket, and
insurance policies on his person. Foul play and suicide were quickly ruled out and the case was soon dismissed as an “accidental drowning.” Rev. A. J. Okerblom from the Swedish Evangelical Salem Lutheran Church, where Oscar worshipped, was not satisfied. He felt sure something terrible had befallen Oscar, who was known to avoid water since his narrow escape from Titanic. Okerblom’s protestations came to naught and Oscar was quietly buried in Mountain Grove Cemetery in Bridgeport.
Life moved on for the Palmquist family and in time, the shadows of that fateful night closed over the story of Oscar Palmquist. An autopsy was not pursued and no further police action was taken. Over the decades, rough grass closed over the single grave as Oscar’s story faded into history.
Can You Help?
Oscar Palmquist’s story garnered some small attention in 2012 as the 100th
anniversary of Titanic’s sinking approached, but the humble grave remains unmarked. Titanic societies all over the world are now receiving an appeal to contribute to remembering Oscar with a granite grave marker that will record his name, dates, and his presence aboard Titanic in 1912. His tragic and ironic death has captured the imaginations of many: to have survived the terrible night in the North Atlantic, only to be found in a park pond only a few days from the thirteenth anniversary of the sinking of the great liner.
A Barre, Vermont granite marker in 1920s-style pale grey, unpolished stone has been selected at a cost of $1300 with $280 being needed for the stone footing. Mr. Palmquist’s family has been located and is excited to be a part of a memorial dedication ceremony, which will take place on Saturday, June 29 at 11 a.m. in Bridgeport’s Mountain Grove Cemetery. The project has also received the endorsement of the Titanic International Society, and TIS treasurer Robert Bracken has been in close contact with the family. Oscar’s great nephew, Mr. David Palmquist, will be writing an updated biography of his great uncle, which will be published in Voyage and made public on this site at the same time.
Providing a stone will be costly, but with all of us working together, it can be accomplished. TIS President Emeritus Shelley Dziedzic has set up a special account for this purpose, and will oversee cemetery arrangements. Checks in any amount will be greatly appreciated and may be made out to Shelley Dziedzic, P.O. Box 86, North Stonington, CT 06359 USA. Please put “A Stone for Oscar” on the memo line. Alternatively, a Paypal account will receive your donations in U.S. dollar currency. Please use firstname.lastname@example.org as the Paypal “send to” address. Progress on the project will be posted weekly on the Titanic International Society Facebook page, and on its web site, http://www.titanicinternationalsociety.org. Please email email@example.com with questions regarding this effort. A leather-bound booklet of donors will be presented to the family, or you may wish to contribute anonymously.
Please help if you can. We hope many will join us as we pay tribute to this Titanic survivor, whose life ended so tragically.