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Woman who lived through 1918 flu pandemic will turn 103 during coronavirus

When Orel Borgeson was a baby, she endured the 1918 flu pandemic.

NORTON SHORES, Mich. — Many are harboring inside trying to make it through the COVID-19 pandemic. For Norton Shores resident, Orel Borgeson, this isn't the first global health crisis in her lifetime.

Borgeson, who turns 103 next week, was just a baby when she outlived the 1918 Influenza pandemic, which killed about 50 million people worldwide. It's the most severe pandemic in recent history. While Borgeson said she doesn't remember the events herself, she does remember all of the stories of the epidemic that her family passed down.

Credit: Anne Erickson

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"My mother’s brother and his wife had no children. And in the epidemic they let husbands stay with them like my dad...unfortunately this aunt caught the flu, and she died from it," Borgeson said.

Now just over a century later, Borgeson is taking precautions to make it through the COVID-19 pandemic. 

"I have strong faith, and I still believe God is in charge, and this is all going to come out alright," Borgeson said.

She is quarantining with one of her three daughters, Bonnie.

"I’ve been doing a lot of knitting and reading and playing scrabble with my daughter," Borgeson laughed.

She said amid the stay-home order, she's been spending her time checking in with her two other daughters, Cheryl and Anne, as well. Borgeson said she will Facetime Cheryl, who is staying in the Upper Peninsula and enjoys safe, distanced visits from Anne and her grandchildren as they walk up to her window and chat from the outside.

Credit: Anne Erickson

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Borgenson's birthday is on Tuesday, April 14. 

After neighbors learned about her interview with 13 ON YOUR SIDE, they gathered in her yard to show their support. They also showed up with "Happy Birthday" posters and decorations for her yard. 

Borgenson said her birthday wish is "For this (COVID-19) to be over."

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