Sisters die 102 years apart, each due to global pandemics


AUSTIN, Texas (KXAN) – A 96-year-old Austin woman died of COVID-19 on Tuesday, victim of the worst global pandemic since the Spanish flu of 1918, which claimed the life of her sister over a century ago earlier.

Selma Esther Ryan died on Tuesday in an assisted living center in Austin. She was not yet born when her 5-year-old sister Esther died from Spanish flu 102 years ago.

Selma ryan

Ryan had lived in an assisted living center for three years, said daughter Vicki.

“On April 3, I received a call from the establishment that five residents, including my mother, had a temperature,” said Vicki.

“Over the next five days, I watched from the window getting more and more sick. It was so hard not to be with her. Her 96th birthday was April 11. Our family gathered outside her window, but it was obvious that something terrible had happened. “

Vicki said that Ryan was not tested for COVID-19 before his death. Travis County medical examiner’s office performed the test and confirmed the positive infection, she said.

Spanish flu killed the very young while COVID-19 kills the very old

Ryan was born in Hurnville, Texas, about 8 miles south of the Oklahoma border and lived on his family’s farm. She came five years after the death of her sister Esther during the 1918 pandemic.

Unlike COVID-19, which is the deadliest for the elderly, Spanish flu was just as deadly for healthy people and for children under 5 years of age.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the 1918 pandemic infected 500 million people worldwide, a third of the world’s population at the time, and killed 50 million people, including 675,000 in the United States. -United.

Esther Hoeffner with her mother Lydia Hoeffner circa 1918 (Courtesy: KXAN)


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