25 Investigates

WWII veteran at Holyoke Soldiers’ Home recovered from COVID-19, celebrated 100th birthday

HOLYOKE, Mass. — Dozens of Massachusetts families continue to push for answers about what unfolded inside the Holyoke Soldiers' Home, the site of deadliest known COVID-19 outbreak at a U.S. long-term care facility.

But, one family is happy to be able to share a positive update and celebrate a major milestone.

“It’s a miracle. It is,” Susan Regensburger said her father John MacKay survived World War II. And now, he’s survived COVID-19. And this month, MacKay celebrated his 100th birthday.

25 Investigates first introduced you to Susan Regensburger in April.

Her father is a resident of the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home, where he contracted the coronavirus.

When Mackay got sick, the outlook wasn’t good.

Regensburger said the family was told to call a funeral home and make arrangements.

The virus has devastated the home. Since the outbreak began in March, 90 have veterans have died, 74 of whom tested positive for COVID-19.

There are state and federal investigations now examining whether a bungled response led to this tragic outcome.

“He is a fighter,” Regesnburger said.

MacKay, a former sergeant in the Army Air Corps, fought to reach his centennial birthday.

Regensburger says they celebrated as best they could. Only 10 family members could stand in the parking lot while her father sat near a window on the second floor.

But, she says, did manage to get her father a cupcake and a birthday t-shirt!

It was an important milestone but, the journey is far from over for this Massachusetts family.

“They said my father would be considered recovered, but he is still in the COVID wing,” Regensburger said. “And I see him in the hallway. He doesn't have a mask on.”

Regensburger says communication is still difficult between the home and families on the outside. She says even since iPads were distributed to the facility they’ve only been able to video chat with her dad twice.

How did this even get to this point,” Regensburger asked. “And it's the same old, same old and it's ‘bs’ is what it is. It's just blatant lies because they're just trying to cover their cover themselves.”

She says her father complained very little throughout the entire ordeal, but she says there is one thing he wants very much, “I want to be with my family.”

So, the family presses for answers as they wait for the time when they can safely see him again.

The family says they have participated in interviews with investigators from the Attorney General’s office, the office of the U.S. Attorney, and the Governor’s office.

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