Sandy Springs woman, 105, reflects on living through the Spanish flu and COVID-19 pandemics –

May 23rd, 2020 3:45 pm

Peggy Cobb is one of the few individuals around the world who have experienced both the Spanish flu outbreak of 1918-19 and todays COVID-19 pandemic.

The 105-year-old Sandy Springs resident was only a toddler during the earlier pandemic, but she has vivid memories of it.

Everyones (homes) were in lockdown, said Cobb, who grew up in southern Minnesota. They called it quarantine back then. I remember my dad (Frederick Vanstrom) was called a couple of blocks (away) to help a friend whose wife had the Spanish flu, and she actually died. Dad was not allowed to come back to our house (temporarily), just like in here now. The (pandemics then and now) were an awful lot alike.

I was too young to remember anything (else) except we were in quarantine. I grew up in a family where we were so secure that somehow nobody ever worried about getting it.

Cobb, who has not contracted either virus, talked about that experience and more in an interview with the Neighbor before her 105th birthday party at the Hammond Glen Retirement Community where she lives.

Regarding todays outbreak, Hammond Glen, like some retirement homes, has not allowed visitors to come into the building to see residents such as friends or family members. But it has allowed its residents to go outside to see them. Cobb said living under those conditions has been a breeze.

Oh, listen. It hasnt been a bit difficult for me, she said. I am so interested in everything going on that, really, my life hasnt changed. I keep busy with all unfinished projects. I dont know what it would be like to be bored or anything, no. Im a compulsive writer also.

Cobb, a retired art teacher, lived in Terre Haute, Indiana, as an adult before moving to Hammond Glen in 2007. She and her husband, Jacob, were married for 59 years until his death in 2002, and shes has lived through 18 U.S. presidents.

During the Great Depression, her father owned a small bank that closed in 1929, so the family started farming to make a living. Longevity runs in the family for Cobb, one of six siblings, including five girls. Two of her sisters lived to be 104 and 105 and the other two died in their 90s, her son Bill said, adding its very cool to see his mother turn 105.

I wish I had her energy, her mind still being as sharp as it is, he said. I think its part of whats made her last this long. She just has an intense curiosity about the world. She has a saying thats on her refrigerator that says, Learn something new every day. Shes also one of these people that, no matter what happens, she always finds a way to make lemonade out of lemons. Those two things together, plus genetics.

Cobb has two sons, Bill and Pete, and two grandchildren. Her daughter, Katy, died in her 50s. Cobb said her positive attitude has helped her live over a century.

When we were growing up, we revered nature, that sort of thing, she said. I guess curiosity is one of the big words. (Regarding) the lockdown here, I could cope with that just fine. I just think one of the saddest things Ive seen living in this place is when you know somebody whos had an active mind and everything, and then you see the mind deteriorate. If its a physical thing taking it, they cant do anything about it. I think a lot of the people, they lose interest in everything.

Cobb also said everyone should share your ideas, one of many quotes or phrases she loves to cite.

She loves sayings, her son said. Her refrigerators full of them, and the last one she would share with (others) is: Stay flexible and youll never get bent out of shape. And one she got from her parents, that was, Furnish your mind well and you always have a comfortable place to live. Those are two of her favorites.

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Sandy Springs woman, 105, reflects on living through the Spanish flu and COVID-19 pandemics -

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