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105-year-old woman who survived 1918 flu, World War II succumbs to COVID-19

Dorene Giacopini COVID-19
Posted at 11:46 AM, Sep 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-30 11:46:30-04

A woman who lived a life of adventure that was book-ended by two pandemics has died of COVID-19.

“I think my mother would have been around quite a bit longer” if she hadn’t contracted COVID, her 61-year-old daughter, Dorene Giacopini, told The Associated Press. “She was a fighter. She had a hard life and her attitude always was ... basically, all Americans who were not around for World War II were basically spoiled brats.”

105-year Primetta Giacopini was two years old when she lost her mother to the flu amid a 1918 pandemic in Connecticut. That pandemic killed about 675,000 Americans — a death toll eclipsed this month by the 2020-21 coronavirus pandemic.

A foster family took her back to their ancestral home in Italy, where she survived as a seamstress until she was forced to flee in 1941 as Benito Mussolini purged the country of Americans.

She returned to Connecticut, where she worked in a factory grinding steel for the U.S. war effort.

Primetta gave birth to Dorene in 1960 and received devastating news: She had been born with spina bifida, which met that her daughter would need to use crutches and a wheelchair.

“My folks were born a long time ago,” Dorene said. “Their attitude about disability, and my mother’s attitude about disability, was it was lucky I was smart and I should get a good job I really liked because I probably wouldn’t be getting married or have children. They did not take parenting classes.”

She moved to San Jose in the 1970s, where she lived until she contracted COVID-19 earlier this month.

She struggled with the disease for a week before she died Sept. 16.

“I made sure we said ‘I love you.’” She did the ‘See you later, alligator.’ I think we both said ‘After a while, crocodile,’” Dorene said. “That was the last time I saw her.”

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