Mrs Oscar Walfrid Theodore Johnson (Aliina Vilhelmina Backberg) was born in Helsinki, Finland on 21 April 1884.
She was the daughter of Stefan Backberg (1845-1911) and Amanda Lovisa Gustafsson (1848-1937) and she had several known siblings: John Ernhard (b. 1874), Brynolf (b. 1876), Josef Aksel (b. 1879), Toivo Edvard (b. 1881) and Anna Dagmar (b. 1886).
She was married at a young age to Kalle Victor Neffling (b. 1872) but the marriage was reportedly an unhappy one and they were separated and later divorced. She later emigrated to the USA around 1905.
Alice was remarried in Kane County, Illinois on 6 April 1907 to Oscar Walfrid Theodore Johnson (b. 1 January 1882), a journalist originally from Ramkvilla, Jönköping, Sweden, the son of Johannes Johansson and Carolina Sofia Samuelsdotter. Their first two children were Harold Theodor (b. 1908) and Eleanor Ileen (b. 1910).
She appears on the 1910 census living with her husband and son Harold at 254 Sixth Avenue in St Charles, her husband being described as a worker in a bowling alley. He later worked as a barman.
Alice and her two children returned to Finland owing to the ill health of her father but he died in February 1911 before she could reach him. With plans to return to America she wrote to her husband in Illinois, informing him that she would be travelling aboard Titanic and that she expected to be in New York on 18 April. In her absence he had refurnished their home as a surprise to her return.
For the journey Mrs Johnson was escorting two Swedish girls across the Atlantic; the identity of the pair is debateable as the Chicago Daily Journal (17 April 1912) and Chicago Daily Tribune (18 April 1912) states that they were the sisters of her husband. This clearly isn't the case as there are no passengers matching that description and it is generally regarded that the two women were Helmina Nilsson and Elin Braf, both from her husband's birthplace of Ramkvilla where Alice also visited.
On the night of the sinking Alice took her two children to the upper decks, accompanied by their two charges. Mrs Johnson and her children are believed to have escaped in one of the aft starboard lifeboats but in which one is not clear (possibly lifeboat 13 or 15); she and Eleanor climbed in, followed by Helmina. Elin Braf, who was holding on to little Harold, remained on deck frozen in fear and would not follow. Alice had to call out for Harold and eventually the young boy was pulled from Elin's arms and pushed into the boat, Elin remaining behind.
Alice spent the night in the lifeboat in ankle-deep icy water and developed laryngitis as a result of her ordeal.
Her husband received word via telegram that his wife and children were safe and being cared for in St Luke's Hospital in New York and fainted in a dead stupor, overcome with emotion. Not wishing to wait any longer he asked those in his community if he could borrow the money for his fare to New York. Instead on loaning him money, charitable souls raised funds of over $100 for him to travel to New York and return with his family.
Back in America Alice and her family resettled in St Charles and in 1913 she and her husband welcomed another child, Herbert. Alice became a young widow when her husband Oscar died on 31 October 1917 aged 35.
Alice was remarried on 2 December 1918 to Hans Thorvald Amundson (b. 20 December 1881), a Norwegian man. The marriage was tragically brief and Amundson died less than a month later on 23 December. However, a child was born from this union on 6 March 1919, Vernon Hans Amundson (d. 1983).
Alice did not remain a widow for long and she was remarried in Chicago on 28 August 1920 to Carl Oscar Peterson (b. 28 March 1885), a dairy farmer originally from Sweden. Carl had emigrated to the USA in 1902 and settled in Kane County and married Jennie Bergeson (b. 1885) in 1911, having four children: Clifford (1911-1987), Einar Walter (1913-1990), Hedwig "Jennie" (1916-1947, later Mrs Charles Frederick Behrens) and Esther (1918-2012, later Mrs Edwin Rudder). Jennie died earlier in 1920.
Alice and Carl went on to have one surviving child together, Irene (1925-1999, later Mrs Marcel VanThournout). Another daughter, arriving in 1923, was stillborn.
The large blended family consisting of nine children settled in Wayne Township in DuPage County, Illinois, appearing there on Smith Road in the 1930 and 1940 census records. Alice became a widow a third time when her husband Carl died on 25 April 1964. In the 1950s she and her now grown children Harold and Eleanor were guests at screenings for both Titanic (1953) and A Night to Remember (1958).
Alice spent the last few years of her life living with her daughter Irene at 1207 East Main in St Charles and would outlive her eldest son Harold by less than a year. She died in the Delnor Hospital on 19 December 1968 aged 84.
Phillip Gowan, USA
Leif Snellman, Finland
- At the time of her marriage in 1907 her name was given as Ella. Other sources indicate her birth name to have been Aliina.
The St Charles Chronicle, 20 December 1968, obituary
Articles and Stories
Chicago American (1959)
Chicago Daily Journal (1912)
New York Times (1912)
Chicago Daily Tribune (1912)
Link and cite this biography
(2017) Aliina Vilhelmina Johnson Encyclopedia Titanica (ref: #907, accessed 25th June 2017 08:59:27 AM)
URL : https://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/titanic-survivor/aliina-vilhelmina-johnson.html
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