Anna Josephine Del-Colle, 96, helped hide Jews in a pharmacy ceiling during WWII

As a young woman, Anna Josephine Del-Colle (née Tijsee Klasen) led a secret life. When the Germans occupied her hometown of Waubach, Limburg, Netherlands during WW II, Josephine served as a courier for a local faction of the Dutch Resistance. The pharmacy where she worked hid Jews in the ceiling, and her job allowed her to travel freely, riding her bicycle to deliver travel papers and citizenship documents to mysterious men in mysterious locations.

“All I said was one word,” she later recalled of the meetings. “I didn’t know what it meant.”

Josephine’s father was also part of the Resistance, though neither knew exactly what the other did. The family kept a radio, forbidden by the Germans, hidden in their home, a known safe house for the Allies. In 2014, the Yad Vashem, the State of Israel’s memorial to the victims of the Holocaust, officially named Josephine “Righteous Among The Nations,” an honorific given to non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jewish people from the Nazis.

Anna Josephine Del-Colle died Nov. 4, 2015, in Virginia Beach, at the age of 96.

She was preceded in death by her husband, Eugene and grandchildren Tony and Kate Del-Colle.

She is survived by her sister, Enny Herings and brother, Leo Tijsee Klasen; son, Michael and spouse, Carol; daughter, Regina Dunn and spouse, Bill; daughter, Jo-Ann; daughter, Eugenié Janat and spouse, Fouad; daughter, Franceska; grandson, Billy Dunn and spouse, Amy; grandson, Jason Dunn and spouse, Meghan; granddaughter, Michelle Del-Colle; grandson, Mark Del-Colle and spouse, Heather; grandson, Andrew Del-Colle; granddaughter, Melissa Del-Colle and spouse, Michael Robey; grandsons, Bereket and Tsegaye Janat; and her great-grandchildren, Ryan and Anna Dunn and Madeline Jane Del-Colle.

Born in 1919 the daughter of Gertrud (née Bisschoff) and Marinus Tijse Klasen, Josephine arrived at Ellis Island on Jan. 1, 1946. A war bride, she met her husband, Eugene Del-Colle, an American soldier, during the liberation of the Netherlands from Germany. Josephine married Eugene on Feb. 26, 1945, in Waubach and 10 months later she boarded the M.V. Talisse in Rotterdam to join him in America.

Describing the voyage, which included Jewish families seeking a new life, she would choke up. “The music, and the crying, and the hollering, my dear,” she said of their ship’s arrival. “That was something.”

During Eugene’s service as a U.S. Army master sergeant, the couple hopscotched between army bases in Europe and America while building their family of one boy and four girls. In 1963, they permanently settled in Bowie, Maryland. Eugene died in 1977. With a house mortgage and family to support, Josephine took a job as a sales woman at a Woodward & Lothrop department store.

Despite leaving her hometown all those years ago, Holland was never far away. Always impeccably dressed with a vibrant silk scarf, Josephine surrounded herself with Delft, a distinct blue-and-white pottery from the Netherlands. One tile mosaic above her couch showed an idyllic Dutch countryside complete with a characteristic windmill. Josephine last visited her brother and sister in the Netherlands in 1999.

Family and friends will remember Josephine, or “Jo,” for her fierce independence, mischievous nature and sense of humor. Through her 80s she drove her burgundy Saturn to volunteer at the local senior center and help the “old people.” She was an avid line dancer, active in her local St. Pius X Catholic Church and a member of the Red Hat Society. On Sundays, she gathered with friends to play dominoes at McDonald’s and woe was the unfortunate patron who unknowingly sat in their seats. Josephine also loved playing cards with her grandchildren, though she wasn’t above cheating to win.

For the last few years of her life, Josephine lived in Marian Manor Retirement Home in Virginia Beach, where she shared laughs and her favorite chocolates with the staff. She always had a sweet tooth and never turned down a piece of cake or a slice of pie. When asked how it tasted, a grin would appear and her blue eyes would twinkle. “Tastes like more,” she would say in her thick Dutch accent.

Visitation hours will take place at 9 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2015, at St. James Parish in Charles Town, West Virginia, followed by a 10 a.m. Mass of Christian burial with Father Jose Manuel Escalante as the celebrant and the homily delivered by Deacon David Galvin. Interment will be at St. Peter’s Cemetery in Harper’s Ferry.

Donations in remembrance of Anna Josephine Del-Colle can be made to Marian Manor Chapel Building Fund, c/o Ms. Karen Land, 5345 Marian Lane, Virginia Beach, VA 23462 or St. James Catholic Church, 49 Crosswinds Drive, Charles Town, WV 25414.

Please leave online condolences for the family at Altmeyer Funeral Home.

To view the full list of Southside Daily obituaries, click here.

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