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107-year-Old Woman Survived Both Spanish flu & Covid-19

In 1918, when she was about 6 years old, Asher contracted the Spanish flu, a deadly strain of influenza estimated to have killed at least 50 million people worldwide.

She told her children that what she remembered then was being sick and coming downstairs to see her father and others who were equally down with the flu.

Born in 1912, Asher began studying sculpture in 1936 and took up painting a few years after she moved to Washington, in 1943, with her first husband, Bernard Shapiro. Her first solo exhibition was held at American University in 1947.

Her family attended Temple Sinai, where she served on the art committee. It was through her association with Boris Aronson that the famed Broadway set designer came to create the synagogue’s ark.

Asher has been working in her Arts career for 80 years. She was due to open a major solo exhibition later this month at the Studio Gallery in Washington, but that was canceled due to the coronavirus.

Her first husband Bernard Shapiro died in 1974. She remained unmarried for nearly 20 years at the age of 80 before remarrying. She got married to her childhood friend Robert Asher who died in 2008.

Asher has been working in her Arts career for 80 years. She was due to open a major solo exhibition later this month at the Studio Gallery in Washington, but that was canceled due to the coronavirus.

In the early 2000s, when she was in her 80’s, seeking a less physically demanding alternative to sculpture, Asher took up digital photography.

She later studied Digital Art at the Corcoran School of Art and began manipulating photographs on her computer. She was 88 at the time.

Her work is now in the permanent collections of the Smithsonian and the Baltimore Museum of Art.
Asked the secret of her longevity last year on the activist Ralph Nader’s radio program, Asher chalked it up to exercise and art.

Asher began feeling unwell in March. It started with general fatigue and gradually grew more acute, impairing her eyesight and making it difficult for her to breathe. By the middle of April, she had all but stopped eating. By then, the coronavirus pandemic was in full swing, and at the insistence of her children and a nurse at her senior living facility, Asher went to the hospital.

After Marilee Shapiro Asher was admitted to the hospital in mid-April sick with COVID-19, her daughter got a call from the doctor telling her she ought to get down there right away. Her mother likely had only 12 hours to live.

“Well, he doesn’t know my mother, does he?” Joan Shapiro said.What the doctor didn’t know was that Asher, a 107-year-old working artist, had already survived one global pandemic. And she was about to survive another. “I am quite certain that she thought that she was going to die,” Shapiro said. “I really think she thought that.”

A century after surviving the Spanish Flu, she wound up spending five days in the hospital for Covid-19, undergoing a course of antibiotic treatment before being sent home. She was never put on a ventilator.

In 2015, Asher published a memoir, “Dancing in the Wonder for 102 Years,” in which she writes: “Dear God, I don’t know who you are or where you are or if you are. But I do want to thank you for my life and all the perks I have enjoyed. I want to thank you also for 30 more years than are usually allotted according to your Bible. I hope I have not overstayed my welcome.

Sincerely, Marilee.

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