The Lusitania Resource > People > Saloon (First Class) Passenger List > Mrs. Albert Clay Bilicke (Gladys Huff)

Mrs. Albert Clay Bilicke (Gladys Huff)

Gladys Bilicke Saloon Passenger Saved
Gladys Bilicke image credit:  San Francisco Examiner, 10 May 1915/Michael Poirier.
Born Gladys Huff c. 1865 Illinois, United States
Died 3 March 1943 (age 77) Los Angeles, California, United States
Age on Lusitania 50
Ticket number 19841
Cabin number B 48 regal suite and bath
Traveling with - Albert Bilicke (husband)
Lifeboat ?
Rescued by ?
Occupation - Society hostess
Citizenship United States
Residence South Pasadena, California, United States
Other name(s) None
Spouse(s) Albert Bilicke (c. 1900 - 1915, his death)
Gladys Bilicke, née Huff (c. 1865 - 1943), 50, was the wife of hotel manager Albert Bilicke. They had been married for 15 years lived in South Pasadena, California, United States. They were traveling aboard Lusitania because Albert was recovering from abdominal surgery and needed rest. When the ship was sinking, the Bilickes entered a lifeboat that upset while lowering. Albert was lost. Gladys was saved.

Life in California

Gladys Huff was originally from Illinois and had a sister named Ella. Gladys met Albert Bilicke in Southern California. They married around 1900 and lived in a nice house overlooking a valley and the ocean at 699 Monterey Road, South Pasadena. Gladys and Albert had two sons, Carl and Albert, and a daughter, Nancy. The Bilicke Family made their fortune from hotel management and real estate. At the time of the last voyage of the Lusitania, the Bilickes had been married for 15 years.  Albert had fallen ill and needed abdominal surgery. The doctors recommended that Albert and Gladys take a short trip to relax. This trip turned out to be a transcontinental in nature and ended up in New York City. They visited friends and family along the way and stopped by their property in Kansas City. They planned to return to Los Angeles in time for the opening of the new Muehlenbach Hotel.

A fateful decision

When the Bilickes were New York, they decided to add a voyage aboard the Lusitania to their recuperative trip. Albert sent a telegram to his real estate agent, C. H. Barber, that he was sailing because it was "Too strenuous for me here." Barber tried to stop them, but the Bilickes had already bought their tickets and sailed anyway. The Bilickes were staying in cabin B-48, the regal suite and bath, their ticket number 19841. Albert wrote his friend Leonard Brown in a postcard that he had been aboard Lusitania twice before and the ship's speed and officers were familiar to him. When the torpedo hit the ship, Albert and Gladys were in their B deck cabin, resting after lunch.  They rushed onto the boat deck and entered a lifeboat with Reverend David Loynd and his wife Alice.  The boat went perpendicular, spilling out everyone aboard. Gladys survived, having struggled to reach the surface of the water. Gladys grabbed onto a spar and floated on it for several hours with several men. She looked around for any sign of Albert and did not see him. She concluded that he may have been trapped beneath the upset lifeboat. While awaiting rescue, she feared that the strong current was carrying her out to the open ocean. After her rescue and arrival in Queenstown, despite being in the water for long periods of time, she spent long hours walking through the morgues looking for her husband. She did not find Albert anywhere. She gave the following notice for description of Albert Bilicke to the American Consul:
Age about:  53.  Height:  about 5 feet 6 inches.  Eyes:  blue.  Hair:  sandy and thin.  On abdomen, 2 scars from operation.  Clothes: Suit, dark material.  In the pocket, wallet with gold mountings containing English money and papers.  Little notebooks in pockets.  Watch and chain, gold and platinum. On watch is mongram, A.C.B.  Ring, turquoise and two diamonds.  Underwear:  Linen mesh, short and drawers.  Abdominal belt, silk hose, caught up with gilt clasps.  Shirt marked on sleeve by monogram "A.C.B." and back of shirt marked "Sulka & Co., Paris & New York."  Cuff buttons set with light blue sapphires.  Collar, white turnover.  Neck tie, dark.  Stick pin, emeralds surrounded with diamonds.
Despite these descriptions, Albert's body was never recovered. Gladys later erected a memorial for him in Los Angeles. Gladys pressed on to London with a group of fellow survivors. Following her ordeal, Gladys clung onto third class passenger Violet James. Violet herself was trying to recover from the disaster and only reluctantly looked after Gladys on the way to the London Ritz. After Violet left, Gladys sent a special messenger to call her back. Violet was not ready to be in Gladys' company again and had her doctor phone Gladys to tell her that Violet needed rest herself. Violet promised to accompany Gladys on her return trip to America in June on an American ship.

Return to America

Unable to find any trace of Albert, Gladys sailed home on the American Liner Philadelphia with survivors Frederick John Milford and Frederic Gauntlett, arriving in New York on 3 June 1915. Violet James does not seem to have accompanied her. A maid and a nurse greeted Gladys in New York. She returned to California and her family from there. Her sister Ella met her in Chicago. There, Gladys related to Ella her fear of being swept out to into the open ocean before she could be rescued. Upon her arrival in California, Gladys learned that her Albert's will had been probated and that his sister Louisa wanted a part of the estate. Gladys filed claim against Germany in the Mixed Claims Commission. Judge Edwin Parker awarded Gladys $50,000 and her children were awarded $30,000 each. Albert's will was finally settled in 1922 in favor of Gladys and the children, where they received $3,521,540. Gladys continued to be socially active but rarely spoke about the Lusitania and her experiences. She kept a house on West Adams, a fashionable street in Los Angeles. She passed away on 3 March 1943, age 77 years.

Related pages

The Bilickes at the Mixed Claims Commission Prichard Letters: Letter from W. Wilson Burns for Gladys Bilicke dated 6 March 1916

Links of interest

Encyclopedia Titanica: Lest We Forget - Part 2
Contributors Jim Kalafus, USA Michael Poirier, USA References Kalafus, Jim and Michael Poirier (2005) Lest We Forget Part 2:  As the Lusitania Went Down ET Research. <> Hoehling, A. A. and Mary Hoehling.  The Last Voyage of the Lusitania.  Madison Books, 1956.

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