Saturday, March 20, 2010

Crone of the Week – Resistance Heroine, 105

I love reading the obituaries in The New York Times because I keep learning about fascinating lives of people I’ve never heard of – like the man who invented the Frisbee.

Last week I read the obituary of Andrée Peel, who died on March 5, age 105, a French-born woman who, during WWII, saved the lives of 102 Allied airmen, was imprisoned and tortured by the Nazis in two concentration camps and published a memoir of her life when she was 94.

She definitely deserves the Crone of the Week award!

Here are the highlights of The New York Times obituary:

A native of Brittany, Andrée Virot was running a beauty salon in the Breton port of Brest when France fell to Germany in the spring of 1940. She joined the resistance movement and began circulating an underground newspaper.

Code named Agent Rose, she fed information to the Allies about German troop movements and bombings. She guided British planes to night time landings at secret airstrips marked by torchlight,.

She helped save 102 Allied airmen trapped behind German lines by setting up safe houses and taking the men to isolated parts of the Brest beaches where they were picked up by boats that took them to England.,

Andrée fled to Paris but was arrested by the Gestapo after the D-Day invasion of June 6, 1944. She was imprisoned at the Ravensbruck and then Buchenwald concentration camps and was about to be executed by a firing squad when Buchenwald was liberated in April 1945.

After the war she fulfilled a vow to give thanks at the Sacre Coeur in Montmartre for her survival,.

Managing a restaurant in Paris, she met and married an English student, John Peel. They settled in Bristol and had no children. He died in 2003.

Andrée Peel was decorated by the French government and received the Medal of Freedom from the United States. During the war she received a letter of appreciation from Sir Winston Churchill. In 1999 she published her memoir “Miracles Do Happen.”

On Feb. 3, 2010 Andrée celebrated her 105th birthday at the nursing home where she lived near Bristol. Wearing her WWII decorations, she sang the French National Anthem.

I just wish I had been there to celebrate with her.

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