By many accounts, the Influenza Pandemic of 1918- 1919 resulted in the deaths of between 20 and 50 million people worldwide. The events of World War I and the worldwide movement of troops in crowded conditions contributed to the spread of the virus. It has been estimated that in the United States, about 675,000 people died. And in Colorado, about 8,000 people are thought to have died as the result of influenza in 1918 and 1919. Worldwide, many flu cases also led to deaths from pneumonia.
The influenza virus that killed so many in 1918 and 1919, unlike other strains, particularly affected young people. Consistent with this characteristic of the strain, young people in the Louisville area were disproportionately struck down as a result of the influenza virus arriving in the area in October 1918. With so many deaths of young mothers and fathers as well as children, many local residents had to get used to new family arrangements after the pandemic ended.
In one case, a man’s death from complications of the flu even led to his widow returning to her home country of Italy with their children. Josephine Jacoe, who was the sister of the three Jacoe brothers of Louisville, had married Joe Potestio and they lived in Louisville and later in Firestone with their children Dominic, Elma, and Elvira. His obituary in the March 5, 1919 Denver Rocky Mountain News stated that he was a union leader who was “one of the most enterprising and successful members of the Italian colony” in northern Colorado and that he had been sick only a short time. After Joe died at the age of 41, the rest of the family returned to Italy, where Josephine likely had a family network to help her.
by Bridget Bacon, Museum Coordinator