Westborough EEE victim remembered as a gregarious man who loved to garden, read
A former research scientist and US Army veteran was the first person to die from Eastern equine encephalitis in Massachusetts this year.
Benjamin Duce, 79, was a Westborough resident for 45 years, and his wife described him as a very gregarious man. “He loved talking to people and everybody loved him back,” said Diane Duce, who had been married to Duce for 56 years.
They met at Colby College in Maine in the early 1950s, and married before he enlisted in the US Army, where he was stationed in Puerto Rico during the Korean conflict, she said.
Duce was a research scientist at Astra Pharmaceutical (now AstraZeneca) for more than 20 years and briefly lived in Sweden with his family. He has three children and six grandchildren.
“He loved to sit out on the deck. He liked to read very much,” Diane Duce said, adding that he liked to garden and tend to birds.
Duce contracted EEE in early August and died several days after contracting the disease, which is spread by an infected mosquito. Diane Duce said the disease put her husband into a deep coma and he was completely unresponsive for the last four days of his life.
The diagnosis of EEE was not confirmed until an autopsy was completed, said Department of Public Health spokeswoman Anne Roach.
“Our heartfelt condolences go out to this individual’s family and friends,” Public Health Commissioner John Auerbach said in a statement. “His illness and death underscore the extremely serious nature of EEE and the need for continued vigilance and preventive measures against mosquito-borne diseases.”
Although Duce is the first confirmed death from EEE, he is the second Massachusetts resident to be infected, Roach said. The first man who contracted the disease is said to be recovering.
The health department is actively investigating Duce’s case.Sarah N. Mattero can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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