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Obituary: Isabelle van de Velde

Isabelle van de Velde, born Charlotte Sophie Marie Isabelle Dien on September 22, 1913 in London, England to Charles Dien and Marie Alice Rollier Dien, died on Nov. 10.

Isabelle and her younger sister, Francette, spent their first years in Bienne, Switzerland. Her mother was Swiss-French and her father French. Isabelle’s mother died in March of 1916. Charles Dien did not remarry. Isabelle and Francette were brought back to the United States where they attended Sacred Heart Boarding School in Orange, NJ. Mr. Dien had a silk importing and exporting firm in Paris and New York. At the age of seventeen Isabelle and her family moved back to Besancon, France near Dijon, where she finished her education and went on to become a Registered Nurse. When WWII broke out she was working at the American Hospital in Paris which became a base for the French Resistance. She joined the Resistance and worked as a spy for the English. The supplied her with a bicycle.  Isabelle was passing information for the Resistance. The Gestapo became suspicious of her bicycle. She had put her nickname Bella on her bicycle. They had set about trying to find Bella. She was told by the Resistance to go into hiding. She left her apartment immediately.

When some time had passed she decided to go collect her special things from her apartment. When she arrived a neighbor, who was surprised to see her, cried out Bella. The Gestapo were present in the area and got the word that Bella was back. She was captured by the Gestapo and held under arrest as a prisoner of war, and then was transported to Ravensbruck concentration camp in Germany by night train over several more weeks. Isabelle was put to hard labor digging ditches. She was interrogated and tortured. She contracted Tuberculosis but with the help of a sympathetic doctor was able to hide her Tuberculosis. The doctor declared that she was exhausted and put her in the infirmary and said she would recover and be of use again soon. She was liberated not long after in 1944. France awarded her the highest honor for a civilian in time of war, the Croix du Guerre, for her bravery and silence through torture and incarceration at Ravensbruck.

Isabelle was a person of deep Faith and a practicing Roman Catholic. Her unshakeable faith helped her survive.  After the war was over she returned to the United States where she had spent some of her youth in boarding schools in the New York area. She had recovered from the tuberculosis that she had caught and hidden while a prisoner of war.  Here in the United States she worked as a Visiting Nurse.  She met Robert J. van de Velde who had served during WWII as a Coast Guard Captain on a sub chaser in Greenland and the South Pacific. They married in 1948 and lived in New York City.

They resided downtown just off 5th Avenue on West 12th Street. Robert pursued a career as a humorous illustrator. They had a daughter, Leslie and moved from New York City to Southport, CT and then later to Eastern Long Island. After two years they purchased a 27 foot sailboat and began a journey south on the Intra Coastal Waterway with Leslie and their Springer Spaniel. Once in Florida they made their home in Coral Gables, Miami. Robert decided that there was more opportunity for him in New York. They returned to New York City and in 1967 moved to Princeton, New Jersey. Isabelle was passionate about the piano and began studying at the Westminster Choir College. She was also involved with the local Cirlce Francaise.

Robert predeceased her in 1989. She then moved to Fairfield ,CT for a brief time. After that she moved back to Princeton and began traveling extensively for several years. She lived in Texas briefly. At age 89, Isabelle moved to Darien to be near her daughter, Leslie van de Velde – Laughren.  Isabelle resided in Atria and Avalon of Darien.  Isabelle was a wonderful mother. She is survived by her daughter Leslie van de Velde- Laughren and son–in-law Terry Laughren who live in Darien and many nieces and nephews who live in Indiana, California, France and Spain, Canada and Peru.

Service will be held at St John’s R.C. Church of Darien 1986 Post Road at 10 a.m. on Nov. 17.

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to St John’s R.C. Church of Darien, Stamford Hospital, or Post 53 Rescue and EMT of Darien.

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