Philip Kahn, 100, dies; The Spanish flu took its twin a century ago

This obituary is part of a series on people who died in the coronavirus pandemic. Read about others here.

Philip Kahn thought history would repeat itself, a truism that struck his family in an extraordinary way.

Her twin brother, Samuel, died in infancy during the 1918-19 Spanish flu pandemic. Now, Mr. Kahn himself has died from the coronavirus. He was 100 years old.

“He was a very healthy 100,” said Warren Zysman, one of his grandchildren, in a telephone interview. “He looked at the news, he was fully aware of the pandemic. When he started coughing, he knew he could have it and he knew the irony of what was going on. “

Mr. Zysman added, “And he said, ‘Warren boy, I told you that history always repeats itself. We could have been much better prepared for this. »»

Philip Kahn, a decorated World War II veteran, died on April 17 at his home in Westbury, New York, Long Island. “The tests confirmed he had Covid-19,” his doctor, Sandeep Jauhar, a cardiologist in nearby New Hyde Park, wrote on Facebook.

“Lovely man, ironic spirit, kind soul,” added Dr. Jauhar. “His twin brother succumbed to another pandemic, the Spanish flu … 101 years ago.”

The chances of siblings dying a century apart in global pandemics seem far beyond, but the Kahns aren’t the only ones. Selma Ryan, 96, who died of the virus in San Antonio on April 14, lost her older sister, Esther, to the Spanish flu 102 years earlier, according to News4SA, a local TV station. The sisters never knew each other.

Philip Felix Kahn did not know his brother either. The twins, whose father ran a bakery on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, were born on December 15, 1919, also in Manhattan, while the Spanish flu was still raging. The boys were only a few weeks old when Samuel died.

“He had this level of sadness because, although he was born a twin, he never had the experience of being a twin,” said Mr. Zysman, who is himself a twin.

“He always told me how difficult the loss of his brother was for his parents,” he added, “and that he kept this void with him all his life.”

Philip served in an army air unit in the Pacific during World War II, participating in the Battle of Iwo Jima and later in fire bombing raids on Japan. He also helped conduct aerial surveys after the United States dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He won two bronze stars.

After the war, he worked as an electrical foreman and helped build the World Trade Center and New York’s first blood bank. He was always active, enjoying swimming and dancing. He even danced on roller skates.

Besides Mr. Zysman, Mr. Kahn is survived by his daughter, Lynn Zysman; five other grandchildren; and six great grandchildren.

Zysman said his grandfather loved to talk about war and history, and almost all of the stories he told started with his brother Samuel and ended on the same note: it was important to learn from experience. Towards the end of his life, he often spoke of Samuel.

Mr. Zysman’s wife, Dr. Corey Karlin-Zysman, who treated coronavirus patients 24 hours a day at the Long Island Jewish Medical Center, called the brothers “pandemic bookends”.

Spanish flu has killed 50 million people worldwide; to date, the coronavirus has killed 191,000 people.

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