102-year-old NH woman survives COVID-19 and 1918 Spanish flu

by Bryan Brammer · Sep 21st, 2020 12:19 pm

Last Updated Sep 22nd, 2020 at 8:29 pm

A 102-year-old woman from New Hampshire survived the 1918 Spanish flu and COVID-19 after contracting both viruses during their respective pandemics.

Mildred Geraldine "Gerri" Schappals was infected with the Spanish flu in 1918 while living in Worcester, Massachusetts, and also tested positive in May for coronavirus at her assisted living facility in Nashua, New Hampshire. She has overcome both viruses and is feeling fine, her daughter Julia Schappals said on Friday.

"She's often said that she thinks Mother Nature believes that she died in 1918 and has forgotten about her," Julia said.

Schappals was born in Worcester as Mildred Lyons on January 18, 1918. After World War I came to a close in November, she contracted the flu, along with her mother, Nora, and her older brother, Joseph.

Schappals was so sick she could not move, so her caretakers did not bother to pin her diaper after changing it. Julia Schappals said the doctors told her mother's family they were not going to live. They were all "basically given up for dead," Julia recalled.

Despite the Spanish flu taking the lives of 675,000 Americans, all three members of the Lyons family survived.

In May, Schappals was taken to a hospital after her fever spiked and tested positive for COVID-19. By the time the results came back, however, she was already feeling much better.

"The story goes that she came back into the [assisted living] facility and said, ‘I feel great. When's lunch?' And she's felt fine ever since then," her daughter said.

Schappals also fought off breast cancer in the late 1980s, as well as colon cancer in the mid-1990s.

Worcester Mayor Joseph Petty said he was so touched by Schappals' story, that he planned to drive to Nashua over the weekend to give her a key to the city at a garden outside her facility.

"This is the city where she lived, grew up. So it's a nice thing to do. She has a good wit, and she seems tough," Petty said. "That's why she's a survivor and lived a long life."


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