When one student’s name was announced at this year’s Burbank High School graduation ceremony, it was met not with cheers, but silence.
The student wasn’t there to collect her diploma or walk across the stage to a wave of applause. Instead, when Evelyn Swierczynski was named, the audience quietly stood, taking a moment to honor the rising 10th-grader who, if she hadn’t died from acute myeloid leukemia in 2018, would have graduated with her class that day.
For her 101st birthday, Dorothy Rusch took a shot.
No, it wasn’t a shot of her favorite beverage, and it certainly wasn’t a Jell-O shot. Instead, the longtime Pasadena resident proudly received a shot of Johnson & Johnson vaccine on her birthday, the perfect gift after more than a year of upheaval and anxiety from the coronavirus pandemic and the isolation it entailed.
“That was a really special present,” Rusch said in a recent interview, just days after her birthday via Zoom. “I’m here, and I’m glad I’m here.”
The vaccine was not the only gift Rusch received that weekend. Outside of her home on Euclid Avenue — where she has lived since 1964 — her children had something of a party set up for the family matriarch, while friends drove by to wish her the happy birthday they had been unable to for her centennial the prior year. Continue reading “Centenarian Celebrates Joyful Dawn of Post-Pandemic Life”