Mildred Evenson is seen here at her home in Kasilof on Jan. 23. 2021. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

Mildred Evenson is seen here at her home in Kasilof on Jan. 23. 2021. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

101-year-old Kasilof resident reflects on pandemic, getting vaccine

Mildred Evenson was born when the Spanish Flu was infecting hundreds of millions of people around the world.

Not many people can say that they’ve lived through two deadly pandemics. Kasilof resident Mildred Evenson — who was born when the Spanish Flu was infecting hundreds of millions of people around the world — recently received her first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and is gearing up for her second dose. Evenson will also be celebrating her 102nd birthday on March 11. She spoke to the Clarion last week about her experience with the vaccine.

Evenson got her first dose of the vaccine on Jan. 15. She said on Jan. 23 that she was feeling good and hadn’t experienced any side effects.

Evenson was born in 1919 during the influenza pandemic, which is estimated to have infected 500 million people and killed 50 million worldwide, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Everson also recalls a mass vaccination effort similar today’s, for diphtheria, when she was a child in Wisconsin in the 1930s.

“I can remember going to get it, and there were some kids older than me that were passing out because of the needle,” Evenson said.

She said her grandmother was a diabetic and got shots every day “so that sort of thing never bothered me.”

While some people have said that they will choose not to take the COVID-19 vaccine, Evenson said she felt no such compunction.

“I know there are people that have reservations about it, you know, maybe they’re not used to getting shots,” Evenson said. “But I don’t know how anybody in this day and age hasn’t had a shot.”

Evenson said she was happy to get the vaccine, although being vaccinated won’t change her routine too much.

“I haven’t done much out in the world for some time,” Evenson joked. “The most I do is go on Friday to get my hair done. I haven’t been in a grocery store for a year, and I love going to the grocery store, but she’s (Kathleen) my shopper now.”

Evenson’s daughter-in-law, Kathleen Evenson, said that she will run errands for Mildred on occasion and drive her to her hair appointments on Fridays, but other than that Evenson lives a fairly independent life on her compound in Kasilof, where Kathleen and her husband also live. Mildred’s other son lives across the Kasilof river, so Mildred said she’s got everything she needs nearby.

This past summer, when the pandemic was hitting Alaska hard and vulnerable populations like seniors were encouraged to hunker down, the Evensons spent their time outside, building a new greenhouse, fixing up the deck and planting a garden for the first time in years.

Evenson said that this past year was as unprecedented as everyone has claimed, even for someone with over 100 years of perspective. What stood out, Evenson said, was the degree to which restrictions on movements and activities were put in place.

Evenson is scheduled to receive her second dose of the vaccine on Feb. 5. As more people receive the vaccine, the Evensons said they are both looking forward to seeing family that lives out of state.

When asked what the secret to her long life was, Evenson kept it simple.

“I’ve had a good life,” Evenson said. “Everything’s been good to me.”

“She’s a tough lady,” Kathleen said. “She’s been through a lot, and she’s strong, and she has a good heart and lots of people to love her.”

Reach reporter Brian Mazurek at bmazurek@peninsulaclarion.com.

Photo courtesy Kathleen Evenson 
Nurses Jessie Arthur, left, and Denise Haviland, right, pose for a photo with Mildred Evenson, center, after giving her her first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Jan. 15.
Nurses Jessie Arthur, left, and Denise Haviland, right, pose for a photo with Mildred Evenson, center, after giving her her first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Jan. 15, 2020. (Photo courtesy Kathleen Evenson)

Photo courtesy Kathleen Evenson Nurses Jessie Arthur, left, and Denise Haviland, right, pose for a photo with Mildred Evenson, center, after giving her her first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Jan. 15. Nurses Jessie Arthur, left, and Denise Haviland, right, pose for a photo with Mildred Evenson, center, after giving her her first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Jan. 15, 2020. (Photo courtesy Kathleen Evenson)

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