RUSHFORD — Ninety-six might not seem like a milestone birthday — it's not a round number — but the Myhro family plans to make a special occasion out of Luther "Lupy" Myhro's birthday on Monday nonetheless.
On Sept. 27, Myhro received a call that he had contracted COVID-19.
Steve Myhro, Lupy's son, said the doctors explained that his dad was in an age group where less than 1% of COVID-19 patients could be expected to survive.
Fortunately, Steve took immediate action when his father felt poorly.
"One Saturday, I jumped in the car to go golfing with (Steve)," Lupy said. "I didn't feel so well, so I didn't play. Steve decided to take me to the hospital."
At Mayo Clinic Hospital-Saint Marys, the initial concern was that Lupy had an atrial flutter of his heart. However, the medical team also ran a COVID-19 test. The next morning, Lupy got the call with the bad news.
He spent the next couple days at Saint Marys, then was released to go home, but a couple days later, Lupy was back in the hospital for the remainder of the week. After that, he spent six weeks at Good Shepherd Lutheran Home, a convalescent and care facility in Rushford.
"The heart issue was caused by the virus," Steve said. "It also affected his central nervous system. But it didn't attack his lungs."
That, the doctors said, was probably what helped him survive. Though the Myhros also attribute his survival to Lupy's overall good health before he contracted COVID-19.
Even at 95, Lupy golfed often — his senior league golf group informally goes by the name "Lupy's Legends" — walked regularly, and worked out at the Rushford-Peterson High School fitness center several times a week. In fact, when he was no longer able to go to the gym after the governor's shutdown in March, the school loaned him a couple weights to use until his son was able to find some to purchase.
"I'd like to think I was in pretty good shape, and that helped," Lupy said.
Still, it's been a rough ride. While his dad was in the hospital, Steve would call daily to talk.
"When I'd call, his first words were, 'I can't take it anymore,' " Steve recalled. "He'd tell me where things were in the house because he didn't think he'd make it."
Lupy said he doesn't recall most of that. COVID-19 left him a little foggy in the head — one of the side effects — but as his physical health is slowly coming back, so is his mental acuity, Steve said.
Since he's been out for the past few weeks, he's taken up walking again — using a walker or a cane — and hopes he'll be back to his pre-COVID self this spring when he's able to golf again.
His father has always been active, Steve said, whether it's golfing and spending 70 years in a bowling league, or as gambling manager at the American Legion for many years and taking charge of the cemetery at Rushford Lutheran Church. He's also been a longtime member of the Rushford Lions Club, and spent many years working at the local bank.
In fact, most people in town have probably met Lupy in one way or another, said Kathy Zacher, Rushford city clerk/treasurer.
Zacher has worked with Lupy, as he's worked as an election judge in town.
"For the presidential (primary) election, he worked for us," she said. "That was in early March. Lupy did do one election in 2020, so that gives him 30 years' worth of being an election judge."
The City Council plans to honor him with a certificate at an upcoming meeting, then plant a tree in his honor at the veterans park this spring.
"He used to go to the school all the time and work out, so even young people who might know him have got to know him," Zacher said.
"Being a banker, he was really good with numbers. Counting well with ballots. His big job was always to keep track of how many voters we had every hour," she added.
Young and old can honor Lupy as he turns 96 on Monday. His family has asked people to drive by his home, located at 703 Trisdahl Court — a left-hand turn and a driveway on the left at the cul-de-sac just past the high school — from noon to about 2 p.m.
A box at the curbside will be there for people to drop off cards or letters, and Lupy will sit with his family in the garage and wave or chat from a safe distance.
After a lifetime of health — Lupy said he's never had a headache in his life — beating COVID-19 is a reason to make a big deal out of his birthday.
"I've been fortunate," Lupy said. "I've been very lucky."