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Oregon veteran recovers from COVID-19, celebrates 104th birthday

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William "Bill" Lapschies started showing signs of coronavirus in early March

LEBANON, Ore. (KOIN) — An Oregon man is celebrating both his 104th birthday and his recovery from the novel coronavirus.

William “Bill” Lapschies was one of the first two residents to test positive for the disease at the Edward C. Allworth Veterans’ Home. To date, 15 residents have tested positive and two have passed away, according to the Oregon Department of Veterans’ Affairs.

Lapschies has been isolated in his room since first showing symptoms on March 5. Staffers have been caring for him while using personal protective equipment, including gloves, gowns, face masks and plastic face shields. As of this week, “he has met the guidelines by the CDC and Oregon Health Authority to be considered recovered from COVID-19,” according to a spokesman for the VA.

Visitors are not allowed inside the facility, per state restrictions issued in March. So Wednesday, Lapschies’ family surprised him outside the veterans’ home for a social distancing celebration.

When asked how it feels to be 104 he answered, “Pretty good. I made it.” Lapschies paused, then added, “Good for a few more.”

Carolee Brown said it was not exactly how she planned to celebrate her father’s 104th birthday.

“We celebrated his 101 and had over 200 people. So trying to keep our social distancing and do what Governor Brown has asked us to do,” she said. “But we’re so thrilled he’s recovered from this and we just had to do something for him.”

Granddaughter Jamie Yutzie (left) and daughter Carol Brown (right) hold signs wishing William Lapscheis a happy birthday (KOIN)

After he tested positive, Brown said her father was “very very sick.” At one point, she said they discussed with doctors the possibility he might not make it. But Lapschies was a fighter.

“It seemed like he just made this wonderful recovery,” Brown said. “We were like shocked that he was kind of sitting in his wheelchair waving at us through the window and we were like, ‘He’s gonna make it!'”

The family thinks Lapschies may be one of the oldest people to recover from coronavirus.

“Bill’s pretty resilient,” son-in-law Jim Brown said, noting that Lapschies lived through the Spanish Flu, Great Depression, and a couple recessions. He was also stationed in the Aleutian Islands during WWII.

He has two grandchildren, six great grandchildren, and five great great grandchildren. They’re looking forward to being able to take him out for a drive when the pandemic is over, so he can see the river and the mountains. They also can’t wait to hug him again.

“His smile, I wish you could have seen it, that mask covers it but his smile is absolutely contagious,” granddaughter Jamie Yutzie said.

Lapschies’ family also thanked staff at the home on Wednesday, saying they couldn’t have asked for more kindness or care for the family patriarch during this difficult time.

“We hope that this will inspire some of the other people that are going through this,” Carolee Brown said. “And we’re really excited and looking forward to 105.”

William “Bill” Lapschies celebrates his 104th birthday outside the veterans’ home in Lebanon on April 1, 2020 (KOIN)

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