The Beacon Today
107-year-old looks into past: Spanish Flu, World War II, Pandemic
Mary Veckman has defied all odds, having survived two major epidemics, lived through World War II and witnessed both the dominance and struggles of the U.S.
Veckman was born in 1915 in New York City to two Russian immigrants who arrived on one of the many boats landing at Ellis Island. The 107-year-old lived in New York City for most of her early life. At just 3 years old, Veckman contracted the Spanish influenza, which swept through her house and claimed the life of her father, Joe. Despite her children being stained by grief, Veckman eventually recovered.
In 2020, Veckman donated blood to Vanderbilt University, a private research university in Nashville, Tennessee, to test if her immunization to the Spanish flu could have anything in common with the COVID-19 pandemic.
“She wanted to help science, she told me,” said Nina Hutchinson, Veckman's daughter.
Hutchinson reflected on the multitude of history her mother had lived through and is still living through today. She shared that when her mother was at a baseball game in her 20s, the game was abruptly stopped due to an announcement: Pearl Harbor had just been bombed.
Soon after, World War II began, and Veckman and her husband moved to Evansville, Indiana. There, they experienced war blackouts where the shades were drawn closed, and the lights were shut off to confuse any enemy planes overhead of the whereabouts of big cities.
Veckman’s husband worked for a helicopter repair business where war-damaged helicopters were sent, and Veckman volunteered at a nearby hospital, helping those injured from war.
Theodore Roosevelt, the president at the time, had come to Veckman’s husband’s job to visit the site and repairmen. At the time, Roosevelt only rode in Cadillacs, but his Cadillac was so large that it did not fit through the aisle of the work site. Veckman had a Cadillac at the time, and it was a small convertible. After she offered her car to the president and his men, they accepted. Roosevelt’s men ripped and gutted the inside of Veckman’s Cadillac, looking for anything that would harm former President Roosevelt.
“He rode around in our car!” exclaimed Hutchinson.
In 1965, Veckman and her husband moved to Florida. Her husband has since passed, but Veckman continues to reside there.
Veckman said that she does not have any words of wisdom to offer younger generations. Kids will go to school, go out and they will have fun. If that was the way to live 107 years ago, then in her opinion, we all will be alive in 2107.
By Gianna D'Occhio