"Fill a jar. Nine raisins a day after it sits for nine days," the centenarian explained.
A 105-year-old woman who has lived through the Spanish flu, two world wars, and the deaths of three husbands and a son, has now beat yet another pandemic. When Lucia DeClerck tested positive for COVID-19 on January 25—the day of her birthday—her family braced themselves for the worst. "We were very concerned," the centenarian's son, Phillip Laws, told The New York Times. Luckily, DeClerck showed few symptoms and was back in her room, holding her rosary beads and wearing her trademark sunglasses and knit hat within two weeks.
When asked about the secret to her longevity, she revealed: "Prayer. Prayer. Prayer. One step at a time. No junk food." However, surviving the novel coronavirus, DeClerck said, may have had something to do with another habit of hers: eating nine gin-soaked golden raisins every morning. "Fill a jar. Nine raisins a day after it sits for nine days," she explained. DeClerck's children and grandchildren recall the habit as just one of her many lifelong rituals. Some of her other longtime habits include drinking aloe juice straight from the container and brushing her teeth with baking soda — which also worked, they revealed; She did not have a cavity until she was 99-years-old.
"We would just think, 'Grandma, what are you doing? You're crazy,'" said DeClerck's 53-year-old granddaughter, Shawn Laws O'Neil. "Now the laugh is on us. She has beaten everything that's come her way." Born in 1916 in Hawaii to parents who came from Guatemala and Spain, DeClerck moved to Wyoming, California, and back to Hawaii before finally settling in New Jersey. She moved into an adult community in Manahawkin, New Jersey—along the Jersey Shore—after turning 90 and was quite active until she injured herself in a fall about four years ago.
"She is just the epitome of perseverance," said O'Neil. "Her mind is so sharp. She will remember things when I was a kid that I don't even remember." DeClerck—the oldest resident of Mystic Meadows Rehabilitation and Nursing, a 120-bed facility in Little Egg Harbor—admitted to feeling scared at first when she tested positive for COVID-19 on January 25, which was also the day after she had gotten her second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. She hated being isolated and she missed the daily chatter from the parade of caregivers at the South Jersey nursing home.
However, since beating the deadly virus, her two surviving sons, five grandchildren, 12 great-grandchildren, and 11 great-great-grandchildren have given her a new moniker: "The 105-year-old badass who kicked Covid." She also got an unexpected shout-out from Gov. Philip D. Murphy this week, who described a phone call with her as "an uplifting conversation" during a recent coronavirus news briefing. "She's got a tenacity that is unbelievable," said DeClerck's son, Phillip Laws. "And she's got that rosary — all the time." According to Michael Neiman, the administrator of Mystic Meadows, DeClerck is one of 62 residents of the home to have contracted the virus.
Four patients, including three who were receiving hospice care, died due to the pandemic. "We're as careful as possible," said Neiman, "but this finds a way of sneaking in." He revealed that residents were being tested twice a week in January and that a rapid test in the last week of the month showed that DeClerck had contracted the virus. "At first she was a little apprehensive, a little scared, but she said, 'God will protect me,'" Neiman recalled. Following her miraculous recovery, which likely had something to do with her being vaccinated, her family is paying closer attention to DeClerck's lifelong habits. "Now all of us are rushing out and getting Mason jars and yellow raisins and trying to catch up," Ms. O'Neil said.