Mr Aaron 1 "Abe" Willer was born around 1875 somewhere in the Russian Empire, ostensibly Ukraine. He was the son of Mendil Willer and Gertrude Sussman.
He may have arrived in Britain in the late 1890s or early 1900s where he worked as a tailor and was married to Ukrainian-born Bessie Suskin (b. 20 October 1868 in Odessa). The couple went on to raise a family of four sons, with Bessie having had a daughter from a previous relationship, Annette (1890-1971).
Their first three children were born in London: Gabriel George (1902-1979), Goodman Howard (1905-1990) and Davis "David" (1906-1982). The family later emigrated, departing on 6 March 1907 aboard the Friesland, bound for the port of Philadelphia, settling in that city for a time. Whilst there another child was born, Maurice R. (1908-1974). The whole family later shifted and resettled in Chicago, Illinois sometime after, later living at 1332 North Leavitt Street in the city.
Aaron reportedly returned to Europe and worked as a tailor in Paris to earn enough money to set up his own business back in Chicago. He boarded the Titanic at Cherbourg as a third class passenger (ticket number 3410 which cost £8, 14s, 3d) and family report that he was chaperoning a 16-year-old friend across the Atlantic (perhaps Usher Pulner).
Aaron Willer died in the sinking and his body, if recovered, was never identified.
His widow and children were left destitute and on the verge of eviction following his loss, only saved by the intervention of the Red Cross. Bessie launched a suit against the Oceanic Steamship Company for £10,000 for loss of property and $50,000 for loss of life. It is not clear if these claims were ever settled but Bessie did receive monetary assistance from various relief funds to the sum of over $5000.
Bessie continued to live in Chicago and shows up on the 1920 census living in Chicago with her four sons. A decade later she is living on West Division Street, Chicago, still with some of her children. She died on 5 February 1949.
Aaron's three eldest sons all resettled in California and raised families, with Goodman being the last surviving California-based son when he died on 11 April 1990. Aaron's youngest son remained in Chicago and died on 24 December 1974.
- His name is given as Harry Willer on his son Maurice's death record. His name is listed in "Marriages, Births, Deaths ..." as "Abe Weller".
Michael A. Findlay (1998) Revised Passenger List in Judith Geller Titanic: Women and Children First. Haynes. ISBN 1 85260 594 4
Marriages, births, deaths and injuries that have occurred on board during the voyage (PRO London, BT 100/259-260)
Articles and Stories
Chicago Tribune (1912)