COVID-19 Survivor and WWII Veteran Celebrates 104th Birthday

William "Bill" Lapschies may now be the oldest COVID-19 survivor in the world.

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You've likely been hearing only dismal numbers when it comes to the coronavirus mortality rate, which is why this story of 104-year-old William "Bill" Lapschies, the oldest known COVID-19 survivor in the U.S., is a much-need breath of fresh air.

Born in Salem, Oregon, in 1916, Lapschies made it through the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, the Great Depression, and World War II. On Mar. 11, he was one of the first people in Oregon to be diagnosed with COVID-19. Now that it's been more than three weeks since his symptoms began and more than two weeks since he's had a fever, he's likely the country's oldest COVID-19 survivor, if not the oldest in the world. So when his 104th birthday came around on Wednesday, he and his family really had something to celebrate.

Wearing surgical masks and maintaining a good amount of social distance, they showed up to the Edward C. Allworth Veterans' Home in Lebanon, Oregon—where he lives—with balloons, cake, and signs telling him they loved him. As you can see in the video below, he seemed to be in excellent spirits as he was wheeled out to greet his family.

His doctor, Rob Richardson, DO, told Oregon Public Broadcasting that Lapschies had developed a moderate case of the virus, and would have likely needed to be hospitalized had he not been in a long-term care facility. But given how aggressively COVID-19 has affected the elderly, it's still a miracle he made it.

"This could have easily gone another way," Richardson said. "There's not a lot of interventions that can be done."

When Lapschies' granddaughter, Jamie Yutzie, asked him how he'd managed to survive COVID-19, he replied, "I don't know. It just went away. Sit out here and you can get rid of anything."

Lapschies' daughter, Carolee Brown, described her father as a "wonderful family man." In 1939, he married Alamadean "Deanie" Buetell, and they were together for over 60 years until she died in 2001. He served in World War II, dispatching trucks and heavy equipment. Brown said that he never spoke much about the war, but that he had always been a kind and warm caretaker.

And when asked how it felt to be 104 years old, Lapschies had a simple but touching reply: "Pretty good. I made it." And for more heartwarming stories amid this pandemic, check out 5 Heartwarming Stories of People Helping the Elderly Amid Coronavirus.

Diana Bruk
Diana is a senior editor who writes about sex and relationships, modern dating trends, and health and wellness. Read more
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