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WWII veteran who survived Spanish Flu celebrates his 104th birthday, recovery from coronavirus

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An Oregon man is celebrating his recovery from the coronavirus. What makes it more astonishing is he just turned 104-years-old.

William “Bill” Lapschies was one of the first two residents to test positive for COVID-19 at the Edward C. Allworth Veterans’ Home in Lebanon, Oregon, according to a story by News Channel 8, Lebanon. There are now a total of 15 residents that have tested positive, two of which have passed away, according to the Oregon Department of Veterans’ Affairs.

Lapschies first started showing symptoms on March 5, and has been isolated in his room ever since. The veterans’ home staff have been caring for him while wearing gloves, gowns, face masks and plastic face shields. As of this week, “he has met the guidelines by the CDC and Oregon Health Authority to be considered recovered from COVID-19,” according to a spokesman for the VA.

Not surprising, visitors have not been allowed inside the facility, per state restrictions issued in March. But with his 104th birthday falling on Wednesday, the surprise was a celebration visit by Lapschies’ family, including his granddaughter Jamie Yutzie, daughter Carol Brown, and Jim Brown, his son-in-law.

They stood outside with mostly red, white and blue balloons and homemade signs saying “Happy Birthday” and “We love you Dad.” With a mask on, he was brought outside in his wheelchair, with his family at a safe distance.

When asked how it feels to be 104, he answered, “Pretty good. I made it.” Lapschies paused, then added, “Good for a few more.”

Carolee Brown said “We celebrated his 101 and had over 200 people. So trying to keep our social distancing and do what Governor Brown has asked us to do,” she said. “But, we’re so thrilled he’s recovered from this and we just had to do something for him.”

After he had tested positive, Brown said her father was “very very sick.” But Lapschies was a fighter. The family thinks Lapschies may be one of the oldest people to recover from coronavirus.

“Bill’s pretty resilient,” son-in-law Jim Brown said, noting that Lapschies lived through the Spanish Flu, Great Depression, and a couple of recessions. He was also stationed in the Aleutian Islands during WWII.

He has two grandchildren, six great grandchildren, and five great great grandchildren, and according to the News Channel 8 story, they’re looking forward to being able to take him out for a drive when the pandemic is over, so he can see the river and the mountains.

“We hope that this will inspire some of the other people that are going through this,” Carolee Brown said. “And we’re really excited and looking forward to 105.”

They brought another homemade sign, expressing their deep appreciation to the staff that read “Oregon Veterans’ Home Lebanon Drs, nurses and staff. We…Thank You! You are today’s heroes for your time, love and never ending dedication to America’s Heroes.” The family said they couldn’t have asked for more kindness or care for the family patriarch during this difficult time.

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