'A COVID warrior': 101-year-old Palatine woman survives fight with the virus

When 101-year-old Anna Grattoni contracted COVID-19 late last year, her family understandably was full of concern.

Grattoni, however, had full faith that she would come out of it OK, with the help of the sisters and nurses at St. Joseph's Home for the Elderly in Palatine. "Everyone is perfect," Grattoni said of her caregivers. "Everybody here has a good mood and does a good job. I never worry."

The Little Sisters of the Poor, which operates St. Joseph's, announced this month that Grattoni had beat the coronavirus.

"101-year-old Anna Grattoni is our oldest resident, and we are happy to share, a COVID warrior," the Little Sisters wrote in their newsletter.

Staff members lined the hallways and cheered when Grattoni was released from the home's COVID wing in December. The centenarian raised her arms triumphantly as she returned to the room where she has lived the last six years.

Officials at the home said they established the COVID wing at the beginning of the pandemic, but it sat empty for nine months. The first resident infection occurred in November, and then it began to spread.

Ultimately, 25 residents contracted the disease and five died. All five had substantial underlying health issues, Communications Director Diana Olson said.

Grattoni, however, is relatively healthy and suffered few if any symptoms, said her son, Alex Grattoni of Hoffman Estates.

"We were surprised and scared when she got it, but I talked to her every night and she never had a cough or any of the symptoms," he said. "I'd say she was asymptomatic."

This isn't Grattoni's first go-round with a pandemic. Born in 1919 in rural Croatia, Grattoni lived through the Spanish flu and both world wars before moving to the United States.

Alex Grattoni points to his mother's hard work, healthy living and strong genes for her long life. Her parents, siblings and grandparents all lived into their 90s, and she grew up on a small farm, where she was used to rising early, working hard and eating wholesome food.

She and her husband, Oreste, had their daughter, Bianca, in 1942, before moving to northern Italy after World War II. There they welcomed Alex, in 1949. The couple eventually emigrated to Chicago in 1951.

The family lived on the West Side of Chicago, where their son attended Our Lady of the Angels School. He was in fourth grade during the devastating fire that killed 92 children and three nuns.

"After the fire, my parents were completely shocked and numb," Alex Grattoni said.

They moved briefly to Berwyn, but in 1960 Oreste died at the age of 45, presumably from the effects of working as a craftsman with bronze. Anna Grattoni and her children returned to the West Side, where she worked as a clerk at a bakery to make ends meet.

Eventually, both children married and moved out to the Northwest suburbs, and Grattoni followed. Before moving to St. Joseph's, she lived with her daughter in Arlington Heights and later in an apartment in Palatine.

Grattoni's remarkable survival has inspired everyone at St. Joseph's, Olson said. They credit their devout faith as much as the skilled nursing.

"We could never have imagined how 2020 would unfold," said Mother Margaret Charles, superior of the Little Sisters in Palatine. "We were called to navigate in an environment that was completely foreign to us, holding tightly to the hands of our frail elders and allowing the hand of God to take the lead."

Staff members and fellow residents of St. Joseph's Home in Palatine lined the hallways to celebrate with Anna Grattoni, left, when she was released from the facility's COVID wing in December. Courtesy of St. Joseph's Home
101-year-old Anna Grattoni of Palatine credits the care from the sisters and nurses at St. Joseph's Home for her recovery from COVID-19. "I never worry," she said. Courtesy of St. Joseph's Home
The Little Sisters of St. Joseph's Home in Palatine helped Anna Grattoni, center, celebrate her 100th birthday in 2019. Courtesy of St. Joseph's Home
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