Woman who survived Spanish flu, world war succumbs to COVID
She lived a life of adventure that spanned two continents. She fell in love with a World War II fighter pilot, barely escaped Europe ahead of Benito Mussolini’s fascists, ground steel for the U.S. war effort and advocated for her disabled daughter in a far less enlightened time. She was, her daughter said, someone who didn't make a habit of giving up.
And then this month, at age 105, Primetta Giacopini's life ended the way it began — in a pandemic.
“I think my mother would have been around quite a bit longer" if she hadn't contracted COVID,” her 61-year-old daughter, Dorene Giacopini, said. “She was a fighter. She had a hard life and her attitude always was ... basically, all Americans who were not around for World War II were basically spoiled brats.”
Primetta Giacopini's mother, Pasquina Fei, died in Connecticut of the Spanish flu in 1918 at age 25. That pandemic killed about 675,000 Americans — a death toll eclipsed this month by the 2020-21 coronavirus pandemic.
Primetta was 2 years old when her mother died. Her father, a laborer, didn't want to raise Primetta or her younger sister, Alice. He sent Alice back to Italy, their ancestral homeland, and handed Primetta to an Italian foster family that then relocated to Italy in 1929.
“The way Mom talked about it, he didn’t want to raise those kids alone, and men didn’t do that at that time,” Dorene recalled. “It’s ridiculous to me.”
Primetta supported herself by working as a seamstress. Raven-haired with dark eyes and sharp features, she eventually fell in love with an Italian fighter pilot named Vittorio Andriani.
“I didn't see too much of him because he was always fighting someplace,” Primetta told the Golden Gate Wing, a military aviation club in Oakland, California, in 2008.
Italy entered World War II in June 1940....