103-year-old Spanish Flu survivor gets COVID-19 vaccine in Eugene

A 103-year-old Eugene woman who survived the Influenza Pandemic in 1918 received her first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine Friday.

Posted: Feb 1, 2021 11:16 AM
Updated: Feb 1, 2021 11:16 AM

EUGENE, Ore. --- A 103-year-old Eugene woman who survived the Influenza Pandemic in 1918 received her first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine Friday.

The Influenza Pandemic, otherwise known as the Spanish flu, killed at least 50 million people.

Bernice Homan was just a year old when the Spanish Flu swept across the world and nearly took her life. Over 100 years later, Homan was the first resident at Willamette Oaks to roll up her sleeves and get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Homan is known at Willamette Oaks for her sense of humor and willingness to help her neighbors.

At 103-years-old she said exercising her mind and her body daily is key.

"I try to walk every day to the end of the building and back,” Homan said.

Fitness Specialist Janet Hollander said Homan is a leader in the community and inspires others to stay active.

“The neighbors would go…well if she could do it, I should be able to do it,” Hollander said.

Homan was born in South Dakota a year before the Influenza Pandemic started. Even though she doesn’t remember much, since she was a baby at the time, she knows she almost lost her life.

“I was born in 17' and that's when the Spanish Flu was and the doctor was at our house so I'm sure I had it,” Homan said.

The doctor told her mother Bernice wouldn't make it through the night. However, just like Bernice, she was a fighter and refused to give up. 

"When the doctor left, she decided she would do something about it," Homan said. 

Homan said her mother heard that pumpkin seeds were the most helpful thing for the flu.

"She didn't have a pumpkin in the house so she started up the street and stopped at every house on the block," Homan said.

She made Pumpkin Seed Tea and spoon-fed Bernice until the sun came up.

"I opened my eyes and when the doctor came back he couldn't believe it," Homan said.

Homan is a living breathing miracle and it was all thanks to her mother. But despite beating the deadly flu, the two never spoke about it again, because it was extremely emotional for her mother.

Now, more than a hundred years later Bernice got the first COVID-19 vaccine at Willamette Oaks. She said she would do anything to prevent the virus from spreading and she encourages everyone to receive it once they're eligible. 

"I think we should stop it from spreading any more than it is and do everything we can. We're saving lives,” Homan said.

Bernice said her mother would be thrilled to know she got her first dose of the vaccine Friday. She said her mother lived for her 3 children. 

Bernice’s sister lived until she was 102-years old and her brother is 99 years young and still kicking.

By the time Bernice gets her second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine she will be 104-years-old.

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