Southwest Florida woman who survived 1918 flu pandemic celebrates her 106th birthday

Posted at 8:57 AM, Apr 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-15 08:57:36-04

FORT MYERS, Fla.  — June Santini Johnson was born the same year World War I broke out and a full 4 years before the 1918 flu pandemic.

More than a century later, she’s celebrating her 106th birthday.

She was treated to a special party at her living facility – The Rose Garden of Fort Myers.

“I’m so happy, I don’t know what to say,” said June after she was wheeled out the front entrance and greeted by cheering family members and staff.

Normally, she would have celebrated inside with loved ones giving hugs and speaking directly into her ear to compensate for her fading hearing.

But not this year – because of coronavirus.

”She keeps asking why can’t you come in,” said her daughter Tena Jones.

“I know it's difficult for her to understand why everyone is so far apart,” said June’s grandson, Bryan Jones.

“And it’s not easy to explain to her especially when you’re not even really able to right next to her.”

But June still smiled her way through the celebration despite the social distancing that kept her loved ones beyond the range of hugs and kisses.

And she clearly enjoyed eating a piece of birthday cake.

It was just the latest chapter in a life that began when she was born on a houseboat off the Florida Keys in 1914.

June was 4 years old when the 1918 flu pandemic hit.

Her daughter has a theory on how June – who grew up in Fort Myers - survived so many things other people didn’t

“I think good pioneer genes,” said Tena.

“She's 4th generation Lee county.”

Grandson Bryan says another factor could’ve also contributed to June’s long life.

“I think part of it might be orneriness,” he said with a laugh.

“And her enjoying life,” he added.

June agreed with that part about enjoying life.

When asked what she believed led to her long life, her answer came down to three words.

“Just being happy,” she said.