Obituary: Jacqueline Henriette Pace, 93, formerly of Darien

Jacqueline Henriette Pace
Jacqueline Henriette Pace

Jacqueline Henriette Pace, a former, longtime resident of Darien and once a member of the French Resistance, passed away peacefully after a long illness Saturday, March 24, 2018 at her apartment in Stamford. She was 93.  

Born March 18, 1925 in Paris, Jacqueline Gambiez survived the Great Depression and World War II as part of the rightfully dubbed “Greatest Generation.”

Upon the impending Nazi invasion of France in 1940, Jacqueline left behind her Parisian childhood to hide in the Burgundy countryside in Chatillon-sur-Seine with her mother and grandmother. (Her grandfather, who died prematurely, had been from the area, and she spent many summers there as young child.)  

At the age of 15, Jacqueline joined the Resistance. She started by delivering mail to fighters hiding in the forest, and almost lost her life early in the occupation when a Nazi stopped her with her bicycle basket full of “traitor” news. Thankfully, he only wanted to help her fix her flat tire.  

Jacqueline grew most valuable to the Resistance as a translator since she spoke English, German, Russian, and of course, French. Her cohorts would wake her in the middle of the night to rescue downed Allied pilots before the Nazis reached them. She helped save the lives of many including American pilot James MacGrew, who returned to Chatillon with his family years later to express their immense gratitude.

Shortly after V-E day, Jacqueline worked for the US Army until operations ceased in Oct. 1945, and met her American husband Raymond Alfred Pace at the University of Dijon. (He remained in France in Patton’s Army awaiting deployment to the Pacific theatre, which he ultimately averted thanks to the atomic bomb.)  Nine months later, Jacqueline and Raymond married in Paris in June 1946.

Eventually, the newlyweds headed to the States where they earned their bachelor’s degrees together from the University of Connecticut in 1952. Jacqueline, always a star student, and quite a perfectionist, graduated with the highest honors. She later earned her Masters in Gerontology from the University of Bridgeport.  

Jacqueline taught French at Convent of the Sacred Heart in Noroton and Sacred Heart Academy in Stamford for more than 50 years.  She earned a reputation as a demanding yet fair teacher.

Her family will remember her as a woman who always strived to do the will of God, and live by the Rule of Saint Benedict, “All guests who present themselves are to be welcomed as Christ.” She prided herself in starting Darien’s Friendly Visitors Program.

Jacqueline also passionately loved France, the French language, and French culture; and she considered one of her life’s greatest accomplishments to be her steadfast sisterhood with her three childhood best friends.

The late Marcelle Anslot and Jacqueline, who met as Kindergarteners and next-door neighbors in Paris, spent countless nights hiding in their building’s cellar to escape the relentless German bombings, often communicating quietly in the dark through a single string and cups.

Marie Therese and Jacqueline, both exceptionally bright, grew close in Chatillon as the only two young girls allowed to study at the boys lycee during the war.

Germaine and Jacqueline, who used to mess about at Germain’s grandmother’s cafe across the street from Jacqueline’s flat, bonded for life after tremendous tragedy. A few days after D-Day, 30 of the town’s men, including Germaine’s fiance, fled to the forest to await weapons from the Allies. But that help arrived months too late. The Nazis surrounded the forest, starved the men out of hiding, and then, slaughtered them all.

Jacqueline named all three women godmothers to her children, and more than 80 years later, their two generations next of kin remain friends. She always took great pride in her family’s strong French connection.

Jacqueline was the wife of the late Raymond Alfred Pace for 68 years. She was also the daughter of late Madeleine Bertrand and Albert Gambiez; and niece of late Maurice Bertrand, a highly decorated World War I French biplane pilot.

Jacqueline is survived by her four children: Francine Scinto (Daniel) of Santa Ana, Calif.; Dr. Cecile Pace Windels (Rev. Dale Rosenberger) of Darien, Conn.; Christopher Pace (Melissa Duggan) of Los Angeles; and Stephan Pace (Jill Maucher) of Lake Forest, Ill.  

She is survived by eight grandchildren: Madeleine Bertrand Scinto of San Francisco; Danny Scinto of Hong Kong; Stephan Scinto of Irvine, Calif., Elizabeth Pace of Los Angeles; Maggie Pace of San Francisco; Andrew Pace of Los Angeles; Katherine Thacker of  Canyon Country, Calif.; and Abigail Pace of Lake Forest, Ill.

She is survived by one great-grandchild, Freya Thacker of Canyon Country, Calif.  

She is also survived by her sister-in-law, Jean Scialabba of Hamden, Conn., and thirteen nieces and nephews, and their children and grandchildren.  

A Mass of Christian Burial will be held on Friday, April 13, 2018 at 10:00 AM at St. John R.C. Church, 1986 Post Road, Darien. Burial will follow at St. John Cemetery, 25 Camp Ave., Darien.

Jacqueline, a devout Catholic, would want to be buried in this way, next to her husband and under a cross.

In lieu of flowers, please send donations to Catholic Relief Services, 228 W. Lexington Street, Baltimore, MD 21201-3443, phone number 877-435-7277, https://support.crs.org/donate/give, [email protected], or The Nature Conservancy, Attn: Treasury  4245 N. Fairfax Drive, Suite 100 Arlington, VA 22203-1606. Include a note for Jacqueline.