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Small Town Residents Undone by Seemingly Random Anthrax Death

Disease: Investigators are scouring the community for clues in 94-year-old's demise.

November 23, 2001|From Associated Press

OXFORD, Conn. — Residents of the community that was home to the nation's latest anthrax victim were struggling to come to terms with the mysterious death.

Ottlie W. Lundgren, a 94-year-old woman who lived in this town of 9,800 southwest of Hartford, died Wednesday of the dangerous inhaled form of the disease. Federal investigators scoured her home Thursday.

"It's scary to think that it could have been anybody in this town," said 18-year-old Jessica Allen, working at Oxford Pizza Palace on her Thanksgiving break from Western Connecticut State University.

"It made me angry," said the Rev. Richard Miesel of Immanuel Lutheran Church, where Lundgren regularly attended Sunday services. "It's an evil thing, and whoever is responsible for it needs to be brought to justice."

Lundgren, a retired legal secretary whose husband died in 1977, lived in a modest ranch-style home in Oxford. Every week she went to the Nu-Look Hair Salon, and friends said she was a gardener, a book lover and a fan of cable television news stations.

Lundgren's niece said she rarely left home.

"If that can happen to an old lady who didn't go out very much, what can happen to us and our children?" asked Tony Linauro of Ansonia, a small town about 10 miles from Oxford.

"I'm very concerned," Linauro said. "I'm 68 years old. I'd like to live a few more years."

Lundgren used to swim every week with a group of women at the Naugatuck YMCA, said the Rev. Lucille Fritz, pastor of the Oxford United Church of Christ. Friends sometimes brought Lundgren to church functions, Fritz said.

"She was a very wonderful woman," Fritz said. "People talked highly of her."

At postal facilities near Oxford in Seymour and Wallingford, about three-quarters of workers are taking the antibiotic Cipro as a precaution against contracting anthrax.

At the tiny Oxford post office, which shares a room with a barbershop, postal employee Frank Rubino said customers were talking about the case but haven't changed their daily routines.

"They're concerned, but you don't see anyone with gloves getting their mail out of the post boxes," he said.

Nearly two dozen investigators from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta have joined crews from the FBI and state health department at Lundgren's home.

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