OTTUMWA — Marie Nason was born during the Spanish influenza pandemic. Now she’s a COVID-19 survivor.

“I didn’t have any symptoms. I just felt fine all the time,” she said from her room at Vista Woods Care Center in Ottumwa on Wednesday. “I just couldn’t figure out why they moved me, but they did move me and I was very unhappy over at that place.”

Granddaughter Lara Vandello, of Fremont, said that Nason’s symptoms “weren’t the typical breathing stuff.” Symptoms included a sore throat, nausea, fatigue and a slight fever.

“It probably helped that she didn’t have any underlying conditions other than her age,” Vandello said of her grandmother, who will turn 102 in early August.

Still, news of the diagnosis in late May was devastating for the family. Vandello said a nurse at the center told her aunt — Nason’s power of attorney — to go ahead and make funeral arrangements.

“They didn’t foresee her surviving this, but it never got worse,” Vandello said. “She just kind of stayed that way. She never got worse than those symptoms.”

“I couldn’t figure out why they thought I had it,” Nason said. “They said I had the virus but I couldn’t figure out why, but they said I did, so they must have, so they moved me to another room.”

“I think she got mad that she was cooped up so long,” Vandello said. But the family did what they could to boost Nason’s spirits. “They brought her phone down to her COVID room. We could call her and go to the window and call her and see her.”

Three to four grandkids would visit a couple of times a week, and Nason’s two daughters would visit about every other day.

“When they wheel me up to the window, I think it’s pretty nice because I can use my phone and they can use their phone and we can just visit with each other through the window,” Nason said.

The family got word early this month that Nason is now recovered from the virus, Vandello said.

“It’s such a pleasant surprise. We were hesitant to get excited,” she said, citing the excellent care the Vista Woods staff provided her grandmother. “We were never told she had a negative test. We were just told she was recovered and she’s back in her room and feeling better. She’s now walking the halls, kind of trying to prove everybody [wrong].”

“It’s just wonderful to be back in my own room. I’m dressed and feel good,” Nason said. “I had a good breakfast: bacon and scrambled eggs and toast.”

“She was actually born during the Spanish flu epidemic and now has survived coronavirus,” said Vandello. “She would always tell us about [the Spanish flu] because her mom always talked about it, so she knew a lot about it.”

“I don’t know if I have any advice for anybody,” Nason said of her longevity and survival of COVID-19. “Just go along with the flow, I guess. I feel pretty good no matter what age I am.”

Features Editor Tracy Goldizen can be reached via email at or followed on Twitter @CourierTracy.

Features Editor Tracy Goldizen can be reached via email at or followed on Twitter @CourierTracy.


Tracy Goldizen is the Courier's features and magazine editor, leading production of the award-winning "Ottumwa Life" and the Courier's other magazine offerings. She began work with the Courier on the copy desk.

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