105-Year Old Woman Survived Spanish Flu, and Now, Coronavirus


Ask Lucia DeClerck how she has lived to be 105, and she is quick with an answer.

“Prayer. Prayer. Prayer,” she offers. “One step at a time. No junk food.”

But surviving the coronavirus, she said, also may have had something to do with another staple: the nine gin-soaked golden raisins she has eaten each morning for most of her life.

“Fill a jar,” she explained. “Nine raisins a day after it sits for nine days.”

Her children and grandchildren recall the ritual as just one of Ms. DeClerck’s endearing lifelong habits, like drinking aloe juice straight from the container and brushing her teeth with baking soda. (That worked, too: She did not have a cavity until she was 99, relatives said.)

“We would just think, ‘Grandma, what are you doing? You’re crazy,’” said her 53-year-old granddaughter, Shawn Laws O’Neil, of Los Angeles. “Now the laugh is on us. She has beaten everything that’s come her way.”

At first, she said she was scared. She did not like being isolated, and she missed the daily chatter from the parade of caregivers at Mystic Meadows Rehabilitation and Nursing, a 120-bed facility in Little Egg Harbor.

She showed few symptoms, Mr. Neiman said. And within two weeks she was back in her room, holding her rosary beads and wearing her trademark sunglasses and knit hat.

To her two surviving sons, five grandchildren, 12 great-grandchildren and 11 great-great grandchildren, who call her Grandma Lucia, she has a new moniker, Ms. O’Neil said: “The 105-year-old badass who kicked Covid.”

On Monday, she got a shout-out from Gov. Philip D. Murphy, who described a phone call with her during a coronavirus news briefing. “What an uplifting conversation,” the governor said.

Ms. DeClerck’s family gathered in January 2020 at Mystic Meadows to celebrate her 104th birthday before the onset of the pandemic. When they learned that she had contracted the virus, they braced for the worst.

“We were very concerned,” her son, Phillip Laws, 78, said.

“But she’s got a tenacity that is unbelievable,” he added. “And she’s got that rosary — all the time.”

A devout Catholic, Ms. DeClerck led rosary prayers each week at the nursing home and, before the pandemic, was a fixture at weekly Mass.

Like Sister André, Ms. DeClerck may be ready for a toast.

But it is likely to involve gin and a handful of golden raisins.

Her family is following suit. “Now all of us are rushing out and getting Mason jars and yellow raisins and trying to catch up,” Ms. O’Neil said.



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