MOHEGAN LAKE, NY — Nearly 102 years ago, a baby named Angelina Sciales was born on a passenger ship taking immigrants from Italy to New York City.
“My mom was born in 1918,” said Joanne Merola, speaking by phone from her home in Lake Mohegan, located in upper Westchester County. “She was born on a ship coming from Italy during the Spanish flu.”
Her mother died giving birth on the ship.
"She was helped by her two sisters," Merola said.
When Angelina’s father reunited with his daughters in New York, he took them to live in Brooklyn.
“She was one of 11 children,” Joanne Merola said. “She’s the last one surviving.”
Now Angelina, who eventually married a man named Harold Friedman, has the distinction of surviving a second pandemic, more than 100 years after she survived the first one.
Angelina Friedman, a resident of the North Westchester Restorative Therapy and Nursing Center, was taken to the hospital on March 21 for a minor medical procedure.
When she tested positive for COVID-19, the procedure was postponed and Friedman spent a week in the hospital. She returned to the nursing home and isolated in her room.
After running a fever on and off for several weeks, Friedman finally tested negative for coronavirus on April 20.
Her daughter received a late-night phone call from nurses. They said she was doing great, that she was eating again and looking for yarn to crochet with.
“My mother is a survivor,” Joanne Merola said. “She survived miscarriages, internal bleeding and cancer.”
“She and my dad had cancer at the same time. She survived. He didn’t.”
Merola said her mother was named “prom queen” at the nursing home last year during a spring event.
Merola hurt her back and hasn’t been able to visit her mother since February. She doesn’t live far from the home.
Because her mother is nearly deaf, they can’t speak on the phone.
Merola marvels at her mother’s endurance.
“She is not human,” Merola said with a laugh. “She has super human DNA.”
Merola was hoping an employee at the nursing home can show her mother this story.
“If my mother could see this, I’d say, ‘Keep going, Ma! You’re going to outlive us all.’”