How’s this for a Happy Birthday? At a spry 103-years-old, World War II veteran William Lapschies kicked Covid 19 and celebrated his 104th birthday at a nursing home in Lebanon, Oregon, where several other people had come down with the virus.
With balloons and signs, his family made sure to stay 6 feet away and celebrate with him at a distance.
Lapschies is likely the world’s oldest coronavirus survivor.
An Oregon veteran who celebrated his 104th birthday Wednesday could be one of the oldest people in the world to survive the new coronavirus.
William Lapschies, among the first Oregonians known to have the disease, has been declared free of the virus, said daughter Carolee Brown.
“He is fully recovered. He is very perky,” Brown said. “And he is very excited.”
Not only is Lapschies thriving, he basked in the attention as Brown and other immediate family members clustered in the morning outside his window at the Edward C. Allworth Veterans’ Home in Lebanon.
They brought balloons and a double-layered cake. “Because he loves chocolate,” Brown said.
A light blue surgical mask hid half his face but his eyes crinkled at the corners to show he was smiling as he talked to his family in a courtyard outside the nursing home’s common area.
A caregiver had brought Lapschies out in a wheelchair to sit a proper distance away from the small semi-circle of people, but he still held forth, wearing a World War II veteran hat and dark blue jeans.
“Woooo,” he exclaimed with raised curled hands.
Lapschies (pronounced Lap’-shees) had a hard time hearing the family, but he was sharp and in a good mood. He spoke slowly. He laughed at just about everything.
Asked how he kicked the virus, Lapschies paused, serious for half a beat.
“Oh, it just went away,” he said, laughing again.
Soon it was time to return to his room.
“Bye-bye,” he said, his voice trailing off as a worker rolled him back. “Wooo!”
Two of 15 residents at the veterans home who tested positive have died, as have dozens of people associated with an assisted living community near Seattle. Nearly 30 senior care homes in Oregon have reported at least one coronavirus case.
Somehow, Lapschies made it. While U.S. studies show that up to about 27% of people over 85 with the coronavirus don’t make it, news reports from around the globe point to a handful of hardy survivors like Lapschies.
A 95-year-old Yamhill County man, also a veteran, has survived. A 101-year-old man in Spain has survived, as have two 103-year-old women, one from China and one from Iran.
There was a moment when it wasn’t clear if the Salem-born World War II veteran would ride out the infection.
A few days after his March 10 diagnosis, a doctor at the nursing home, where Lapschies has lived for eight months, called Brown to say her father wasn’t doing well.
Lapschies’ temperature had spiked and his breathing was labored. The doctor and Brown talked about end-of-life decisions.
First thing the next morning, Brown drove the 28 miles from Lyons to Lebanon with her husband Jim Brown.
Brown attributes her father’s survival to his outlook on life: “He has such an upbeat attitude. He’s never down.”
Lapschies lived through another pandemic – he was born at Salem Hospital in 1916 and was 2 when influenza infected a third of the world’s population and killed at least 50 million people, including 675,000 in the United States.
He grew up in Salem, married Alamadean “Deanie” Buetell in 1939 and was drafted into the Army in 1943, leaving behind Brown, who was born that same year, and an older daughter, Billie Jean, who was 2. He was stationed on a small island in the Aleutian Islands, where Brown said he helped dispatch trucks and heavy machinery.
The family kept the list of those attending Wednesday’s party small so everyone could easily stay at least 6 feet away from each other.
But, Brown said, her father’s 105th birthday party will be different.
“We’re really going to have a big one,” she said.
The article then goes into a biography of sorts on his life, family, and career.
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