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Marilee Shapiro Asher, artist who survived pandemics century apart, dies at 107

Sculptor made national headlines in May after surviving COVID-19, despite doctors telling family she had hours to live; over century earlier, she recovered from 1918 Spanish flu

Artist, Marilee Asher Shapiro, in her home on November 11, 2015. (Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post via JTA)
Artist, Marilee Asher Shapiro, in her home on November 11, 2015. (Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post via JTA)

JTA — Marilee Shapiro Asher, an acclaimed artist who survived both the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic and COVID-19, has died.

Asher died on September 11 at her home in Washington, D.C., according to a statement from her family. She was 107.

Asher made national headlines in May when news broke that she had survived COVID-19, despite doctors telling her family that she had mere hours to live. Asher wound up returning home after five days in the hospital.

Her recovery came more than a century after she survived the Spanish flu, the 1918 pandemic that claimed more than 50 million lives worldwide.

Born in Chicago in 1912, Asher began studying sculpture in 1936. She took up painting a few years after she moved to Washington, in 1943, with her first husband, Bernard Shapiro. Her first solo exhibition was held at American University in 1947.

In 1993, she married Robert Asher, who died in 2008.

Asher remained a working artist until she took ill from the coronavirus, with a solo exhibition scheduled for May at a Washington gallery that was canceled due to the pandemic. In 2015, she published a memoir, “Dancing in the Wonder for 102 Years.”

Asher is survived by a daughter, Joan, of Washington, and a son, Harvey, of Florida. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to Capital Caring Health Hospice in Washington, D.C., or the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity.

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