A FAMILY have paid tribute to an “indestructible” 108-year-old Salford woman thought to be the oldest person to die from Covid-19 in the UK.

Hilda Churchill survived two world wars and the Spanish flu but she tragically passed away on Saturday, March 28, less than a day after she tested positive for the virus.

She had been in isolation at her care home for more than a week but began showing minor symptoms just before her death.

Her family was hoping she would pull through in time to celebrate her 109th birthday in just a few weeks time on April 5.

But she passed away at Kenyon Lodge care home, in Little Hulton, on Saturday morning less than 24 hours after being tested positive for Covid-19.

Her devastated grandson Anthony, 49, had been planning a special birthday surprise for Hilda and was left shocked and speechless when he got the news.

He said he loved Hilda like a mother because she took care of him and her sister, and felt heartbroken they couldn’t be with her in her final moments.

Anthony, from Salford, said: “She’d been a bit ill for the last three or four days, she’s quite prone to chest infections and pneumonia.

“She didn’t have any severe symptoms and she’s battled through things like this before and always survived.

“We haven’t been able to see each other for a week since the home went into lockdown and they shut the doors.

“I phoned last night but because she had coronavirus I wasn’t able to speak to her as no one could bring a phone in.

“The most devastating thing is that we were not able to be there with her in her time of need, when she’s been with us through all of ours.

“It’s heartbreaking for us. Her birthday was just weeks away and we were all so excited.

“She used to say she can’t live forever but at times it was starting to feel like she would.

“Not being able to be with her in the last week of her life has just emotionally wrecked me.

“I think we all need to be more careful. She was a fighter, and she was fine, just mild symptoms.

“She was isolated for about a week at a care home where she was safe, but within a day she was gone.

“She was indestructible. If not for Covid she would be alive today - I’m sure of it.”

Anthony said Hilda was in good health up until recently and had never smoked or drank much in her life.

She was an active gardener and only moved into the care home ten months ago, and was living alone up until that point.

He planned to get a story about her in the papers as one of the oldest women in the world as he knew it would put a smile on her face on her birthday.

He said: “I’d been planning to make something special for her birthday, with isolation I thought I’d get her story in all the papers.

“I wanted everyone to know about Hilda and what a great woman she was, a great mother, wife, grandmother and just person.

“This wasn’t the story I wanted to get out there.

“I wouldn’t admit this to my parents, but I loved her more than I loved them. She was like a mother to me.

“She was a one in a million and she’ll never be forgotten.

“When you’ve known someone your entire life it’s impossible to imagine what it’s like without them.

“The last 20 years she was in her 80s and I remember her always gardening and still up on her feet.

“As she got older she got ill more often but she always fought it off.”

Hilda was originally from Crewe but she moved to Salford with her husband during the Great Depression of the early 1930s to find work.

"She was a seamstress and would never let any piece of cloth go to waste, always managing to whip up something a family member could wear," said Anthony.

She was known for her big dinners, even in their modest house, and Anthony fondly remembers how their kitchen would smell like a bakery when she made mince pies.

Anthony, who is a council worker, said: “I remember all the dinners she would make for us, the Christmas’ where everyone would cramp into our small house to eat her food.

“I remember how the house would smell like a bakery when she would make mince pies.

“She was the queen in our family and we’ve all been left a bit empty.

“But I want people to know Hilda. She never sat down, even as she surpassed 100 she was still fiercely independent.

“She would drop anything in a beat to help others while never asking for help herself.

“We couldn’t ever throw any clothes away because she’d whip up any cloth into something we could wear.

“I think every person in our family has worn something she has sewn.”

As the death toll in the UK surpassed 1,000 for the first time, Anthony is urging others to take the risk seriously.

He said: “She’s the only person I know who had coronavirus, and I think it’s until you know someone that you really realise this is real.

“It breaks my heart to think of all the plans we had for when this was all over.

“But we’re lucky, at least we have enjoyed everything she had to give to the world for so many years.

“I can’t even begin to imagine what it’s like for families who lost someone young in all of this.

“We need to all take care of each other and stay safe - because you never know when someone you love is taken away from you in a blink of an eye.”

Intrepid Hilda was a mother-of-four, grandmother-of-11 and great grandmother-of-14.