105-year-old Ocean County woman survives 2 pandemics

LITTLE EGG HARBOR TWP., New Jersey (WPVI) -- At 105 years old, an Ocean County woman has lived through two World Wars, the Civil Rights Movement, three husbands, and now two pandemics.

A month ago, Lucia DeClerck tested positive for COVID-19 and beat it.

It's not every day you get a chance to speak with someone with this much wisdom, strength and grit.

DeClerck is a resident at Mystic Meadows Rehab and Nursing Center in Little Egg Harbor.

When I asked how she felt having just beat COVID, she responded: "I'm very fortunate."

DeClerck is a survivor in every sense.

She lives to tell the tale after not one, but two pandemics.

"She was 2-years-old when the Spanish Flu happened," said her granddaughter Shawn Laws O'Neil. "She was born and raised in Hawaii, and that's where she was in 1918. She survived that."

Then, on January 25, her 105th birthday, DeClerck was diagnosed with COVID-19, and bounced right back.

"I'm feeling wonderful," she said.

She never even exhibited any symptoms.

Of course, just living to see 105 is a feat.

"I don't have a secret," DeClerck said. "All I do is pray, pray, pray. And don't eat junk food!"

"She's outlived three cardiologists and three husbands," said her daughter-in-law Lillie J. Laws. "She's just an amazing person and she's just made of steel, I guess."

Steel bolstered by her Catholic faith, the occasional See's Candy and her homemade boozy concoction: gin-soaked raisins.

"She said it kept her free of disease," Laws said. "She's never had cancer. She has all her own teeth."

In fact, she didn't get a cavity until she turned 99.

Surviving COVID is something her family bet on, literally.

"We were all going to Las Vegas betting saying she's gonna beat it," said her son Henry Laws. "And she did!"

Granddaughter Shawn Laws O'Neil spent her summers in Hawaii learning from DeClerck, a former home care aide.

"That's where I learned how to have a servant's heart, just like her," Laws O'Neil said.

Of course her family had to postpone that 105th birthday celebration until after the pandemic is over.

Until then, Lucia DeClerck is now fully vaccinated and says she will continue her daily prayers for everyone as we get through this pandemic.
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