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 World War 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, 96, died November 4, 2015 in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
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 January 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 February 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 eighties 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. this Wednesday, November 11, 2015 at St. James Parish in Charles Town, WV, 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. Online condolences to the family may be expressed at www.eackles-spencerfuneralhome.com Donations in remembrance of Anna Josephine Del-Colle can be made to:
Chapel Building Fund
c/o Ms. Karen Land
5345 Marian Lane
Virginia Beach, VA 23462
St. James Catholic Church
49 Crosswinds Drive
Charles Town, WV 25414