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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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100 years ago in Spokane: Concerned son writes home with flu fears; found dead when parents arrive

A mother and father were distraught to learn that their son had died of pneumonia at Fort George Wright. (Spokesman-Review archives)
A mother and father were distraught to learn that their son had died of pneumonia at Fort George Wright. (Spokesman-Review archives)

Charles E. Fay Jr. was lying ill at Fort George Wright with pneumonia, brought on by the Spanish flu, when he wrote this message to his parents in Addy, Wash.: “Be sure and keep dry and warm and don’t catch the influenza.”

When his parents received the message that their son was sick, they immediately set out for Spokane. His mother said, “We will take care of him and nurse him to health.”

But when they arrived, they learned the sad news: Their son had died an hour before. His mother was “prostrated” with grief. Fay would be given a soldier’s funeral at Fort George Wright.

This was becoming an all-too-common occurrence. Fay was one of two soldiers to die at the Fort George Wright hospital that day. Two other people died at Spokane’s emergency influenza hospital, a converted hotel. On that day alone, six deaths from influenza were reported in Spokane.

The epidemic was raging through the small towns of the Northwest as well. Spokane’s city health officer received a desperate call from Othello, Wash. All of the Othello doctors were sick and there was no one to take care of the city’s flu patients. Yet Spokane had no doctors to spare and the health officer was “unable to find a volunteer.”

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