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'Feisty' 103-year-old survives COVID-19 while reading so many books, hospital staff 'couldn't keep up'

Rose Weinstock's father survived the Spanish flu pandemic over 100 years ago  — and now this 103-year-old is home after surviving COVID-19.

Rose Weinstock's father survived Spanish flu in 1920

Rose Weinstock, age 103, calls herself 'one of the lucky ones.' (Sue Goodspeed/CBC)

Rose Weinstock was a toddler when her father survived the Spanish flu pandemic that killed millions around the world a century ago — and now, the Ontario woman has similarly survived COVID-19.

"Very happy to be home," said Weinstock, 103, who was discharged from a Richmond Hill hospital Tuesday afternoon. "I hate being in the hospital."

Weinstock, who calls herself "GG" for great-grandmother, captured the hospital staff's affection, said her daughter-in-law Marna Weinstock — and read several books while recovering.

"They couldn't keep up with her because she was reading so much," said Marna Weinstock.

Staff were buying her books from the hospital gift store, she said, on top of bringing in books from home.

"She was reading the books again, a second time."

Father was 'near death' with flu

Weinstock, who was born in 1917, was three-years-old when her father contracted the Spanish flu, a virus that was responsible for the deaths 55,000 Canadians, including many people between the ages of 20 and 40.

"He was near dead, but my mother nursed him through," she said.

"I'm an old biddy," joked Weinstock, who called herself "one of the lucky ones."

Rose Weinstock's father Philip Clarfield survived the Spanish flu in 1920. Her mother Celia nursed him back to health, Rose said. (Sue Goodspeed/CBC)

Weinstock first went to Mackenzie Health hospital on May 26 after falling and hitting her head. She initially tested negative for COVID-19, but was then diagnosed with the novel coronavirus days later.

When they first brought her in, "the doctor woke her up in the middle of the night and he said, 'Mrs. Weinstock how's your brain?'" said Marna.

"She said, 'Mine's fine, how's yours?'"

"From then on, they knew what they were dealing with."

Rose Weinstock (centre) with her son Barry, 77, and daughter-in-law Marna. (Sue Goodspeed/CBC)

So what was it like having COVID-19?

"I didn't like it," Weinstock said. "What's to like?"

'Like those little tin ducks at the Exhibition'

The strong and humorous Rose is beloved by all, said Marna, who describes her mother-in-law as funny and "feisty" and much like the lead character from the 70s sitcom Maude. She drove and lived alone until age 100, Marna said, adding her mother-in-law also likes to talk politics, and had a personal trainer until the pandemic started.

When Weinstock first got sick, tons of people emailed Marna, she said, and hospital staff showed the 103-year-old their messages.

Marna said she's "not at all surprised," that Rose beat COVID-19.

"I always said she's like the little tin ducks at the [Canadian National] Exhibition," said Marna.

"You shoot and they come right back up."

Rose Weinstock, pictured at age 21. (Sue Goodspeed/CBC)

Rose raised three children, and now has six grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

"She's the matriarch of our family," said Barry Weinstock, her 77-year-old "little boy."

"She's the glue that holds it together."

Barry said he's "enormously relieved and shocked," to see his mother COVID-free. They couldn't believe it when they got a call Tuesday afternoon that she was ready to go home.

'I get up every day'

After being discharged, Weinstock was eager to get back home to Sunrise of Thornhill senior living community.

In hospital, staff set her up on Skype to talk with family every day.

"They were very nice in the hospital, but I'd rather be here," said Weinstock. She also said she "wouldn't mind a glass of wine."

Rose Weinstock is the glue that holds her family together, says her son Barry. (Sue Goodspeed/CBC)

After not seeing Rose for months, Barry and Marna are glad to have her back. 

"Everybody loves her and everybody wants her," said Marna.

About the Author

Laura Howells is a journalist from Newfoundland who is currently reporting in Whitehorse. She most recently worked as a digital reporter and radio producer in Toronto. You can reach her at laura.howells@cbc.ca and follow her on Twitter @LauraHowellsNL.

With files from Sannah Choi

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