MIDDLETOWN, NJ — If Anna Del Priore is one thing, it's a survivor.
That's because this soon-to-be 108-year-old resident of Middletown survived not only the Spanish flu when she was 6 years old, but she also beat COVID-19 this spring.
"People don’t believe me. She is a dual survivor of two pandemics," said Laura Halle, her primary caretaker. "It's a huge thing to see someone who is 107 survive this disease that has all this fear and hype and negativity around it."
Del Priore is originally from Brooklyn, born and bred; she will turn 108 on Sept. 5. In 2013, she moved into the Brighton Gardens assisted living facility on Route 35 in Middletown.
It was in mid-May that she first started to show symptoms; the staff immediately suspected COVID-19.
"She had a fever, coughing, lack of appetite," said Halle, 35. "She knew she was sick. But she never had breathing issues, and she never required a ventilator or even needed to be taken to the hospital."
Del Priore rested, was cared for by the staff, and she fully recovered. Not only that, but her sister — who is 105 and lives in Queens — beat COVID-19, as well. The sisters are two of seven children.
Halle said it was "life changing" for the staff at the Middletown senior home to see Del Priore beat COVID-19.
"To come into work every day already nervous and scared for yourself, and so scared for your residents ...," she said. "And then to see someone who has lived such a long and beautiful life, and to see them recover. It's important people hear her story."
Halle credits Del Priore's overall good health and positive, cheerful attitude with helping her beat the disease.
"That's what helped her pull through. She's stayed active her whole life; she was an avid swimmer and she ate a beautiful, healthy, home-cooked meal every night with her family," Halle said. "And she always walked everywhere back when she lived in Brooklyn."
In fact, Del Priore used to walk more than a mile every day to meet with friends for coffee at McDonald’s. She stopped when she turned 100.
She was born in 1912 (the year the Titanic sank) to two deaf parents, who she could only communicate with via sign language.
Her family told Brighton staff how she made dinner every night for them and that she was always moving. She’d walk to the store and paint the house — even when they asked her not to.
And then there's the dancing. Del Priore's late husband, Frank, was a professional tango dancer, and Anna still loves to dance. Brighton Gardens staff says she’s the first one to stand up and start moving whenever music is being played at the community.
"Even now when you put music on, Anna moves," Halle said. "Music is underrated for the older population — it mentally helps them, and brings them back to their youth and the good times they had."
Del Priore is in the memory care section of Brighton Gardens, and Halle says she doesn't remember actually having the coronavirus.
"Some days she'll tell you her whole life story. We have baby dolls here and she'll hold the baby doll and call it her granddaughter's name," Halle said. "When we ask if she remembers having the Spanish flu, she'll start talking about measles."
"But there are those key moments she remembers, like dancing with her husband," Halle said. "She's happy and smiling, and you just have to thank God for your health. It's been amazing to watch her. There are not many people who can say, 'I've met and loved someone who will be 108.'"
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