Trumbull Spanish Flu survivor beats COVID-19 at 104

TRUMBULL — Surviving disaster has become a badge of honor for Lora Bartult.

Bartult, 104, survived the Spanish Flu while still a toddler in a pandemic that lasted from spring 1918 to summer 1919 eventually infecting about one in every three people worldwide and killing an estimated 50 million.

In April, she was diagnosed with COVID-19, giving her the unusual distinction of surviving two global pandemics — more notable because viral infections like the flu and coronavirus tend to be especially dangerous to the very young and the elderly — demographics that Bartult was squarely inside both times.

“That’s her. She’s always been strong and independent,” said Judy Ligouri Bonner, Bartult’s niece. “She’s always been that way. She stayed living on her own until she was well into her 90s.”

A Bridgeport native, Bartult grew up in the city’s Italian neighborhood in the North End. In the 1930s, Bartult began working in the massive General Electric factory in the East End. In its heyday, the plant employed nearly 20,000 workers including Bartult, who worked on the shop floor for four decades.

After retiring, Bartult focused on volunteering, contributing countless hours to St. Vincent’s Medical Center and working in the store at Middlebrook Farms at Trumbull more than 35 years.

For the past 10 years, Bartult has been a resident at Maefair, where the staff said she was a regular participant in virtually all of the center’s activities. Workers called her the Boogie Queen because of her love of the musical programs.

When the coronavirus pandemic struck and it became clear that the illness struck nursing homes and assisted living facilities hard, Bartult was tested to see if she had contracted the virus. To her family’s surprise, she had.

“She never had any symptoms — no fever or respiratory problems — and her oxygen levels stayed good,” Bonner said.

Placed in a special section of the facility with others who had tested positive for the illness, Bartult recovered quickly enough to be able to participate in the center’s car parade May 22 in honor of emergency responders and health care workers.

Though Bartult did not suffer any effects from the illness, the pandemic has made it tough to remain connected to family and friends, Bonner said.

“We haven’t been able to visit her in two months except for driving around the building and waving,” Bonner said.

Still, family members are hoping they will be able to see her in person in July.

“She turns 105 on July 14,” she said. “Not many people can say that they lived 105 years and survived two global pandemics.”