Los Angeles woman, 105, dies of COVID-19 on week she was set to receive vaccine

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Last April, Eyewitness News featured Margaret Sowma as she celebrated her 105th birthday.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, there was no celebration, but she was able to joke about her secret to a long life, saying "I go to heaven and I take the secret with me."

This weekend, three months ahead of her 106th birthday, she's taken that secret with her.

"We were hoping to have a party if she had been vaccinated, take her out or something, we were planning to try to celebrate somehow, but it wasn't meant to be," said niece Julie Bawcom, who says COVID took Sowma's life after an outbreak at St. John of God Retirement and Care Center in Los Angeles.

"At that age, anything can take you at any time, so I look back at a life well lived," said Bawcom.

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Still, she can't help but think of hypotheticals, knowing her aunt was scheduled to receive the Moderna vaccine this week.

"Physically she would have still been up and around and moving around, and we would pick her up and take her places, and yeah, I think she would've still been around. For a few more years possibly," Bawcom said.

Sowma lived through the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, the Great Depression and World War II, when she became active in the USO. For 50 years, she worked as a seamstress in factories sewing garments. In retirement, she volunteered for the Red Cross and was active in other clubs and organizations. She never stopped moving and always surrounded herself with people.

"She just made friends across the board and that would be her legacy. She just embraced life and everybody that was in it," said Bawcom, who is volunteering to help at a vaccine clinic in Northern California, already proof that her aunt's legacy lives on.

"I try to help out every day in my community. I guess I learned that from my aunt Margie," she said.

There is some hope coming from the care center. On Friday, it reported fewer positive cases and fewer people in quarantine, the same day it received the first doses of the vaccine.
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