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100-year anniversary evokes memories for family changed by flu pandemic

As the 100-year anniversary of her grandparents’ death was approaching, Grace Hurst could not help but think about the grandparents she never knew and the ailment that changed her family.

Hurst said it was one day after her father’s 10th birthday that his father died of the flu, with his mother dying three days later.

“That sickness made my daddy and his siblings orphans,” Hurst said.

Hurst’s father was one of six children, with the youngest still in diapers. After the flu hit the family, the children went to live with their maternal grandparents – but nothing was ever the same.

Benjamin Franklin “Frank” Hurst died March 4, 1920, with his wife Mattie Byers Hurst dying March 7, 1920, of the flu pandemic.

Hurst said her grandparents are buried in a cemetery in Russellville, the family’s native home before some family members relocated.

Hurst said in the midst of the current health crisis over the COVID-19 virus, she hopes her family’s story can help possibly save someone else from the same fate.

“They probably didn’t think anything like that would happen to them, either, but it did,” Hurst said. “I hope maybe their story will wake up a few people and help people be prepared. This is an illustration of what a disease can do to one family.”