Hero of French Resistance in World War II, sent to concentration camp
On this day in 2010, Odette Rene Bonnat Walling, a full-time resident of Truro for many years, died peacefully in her sleep Thursday, Jan. 7, 2010, in Paris at the age of 89.
Born in France on Nov. 26, 1921, she was a medical student when Germany conquered and occupied France.
She then joined the French Resistance and was handled as an agent by the British, serving under the nom de guerre Allaire. She repeatedly risked her life until her capture in 1944 when she was sent to Ravensbruck, a concentration camp for political prisoners in Northern Germany, where she survived torture, medical experiments and imprisonment until 1945.
Later, she received the highest honors awarded by both the British and French governments for her many acts of courage. After the war, she became a journalist in Paris where she met and married Hayden English Walling, an American. After living in Africa, where her husband worked with UNICEF and the World Health organization, they moved to Truro in 1955.
The couple then began a program of buying as many tracts of land among the ponds along the Wellfleet-Truro line as possible (prior to the establishment of the National seashore Park) in an effort to preserve it and protect it.
As a young wife and mother, she also worked with and supported her husband, an innovative designer and contractor who built many of the famous Bauhaus architects' modern houses on the Lower Cape which are now enjoying a renaissance of appreciation, as well as buildings of his own.
Mrs. Walling was very involved in the establishment of the A.I.M. (now Outer Cape) medical center in Wellfleet, as well as helping women in the area gain access to birth control information and material, which was then very difficult and in some cases illegal.
Mrs. Walling continued to live in Truro until the late 1990s when she moved back to Paris. A memorial service was held on Friday, Jan. 15, in Paris, in the chapel dedicated to those members of the French Resistance who were deported and interned during World War II, at the Church of St. Roch. Mrs. Walling is buried in the Pre-Lachaise cemetery. She is survived by her only child, the internationally known jewelry designer Christopher English Walling of Block Island, R.I., New York, N.Y., and Aspen, Colo.
On this day in 1977, the Coast Guard found two life jackets and other debris from the missing oil tanker Grand Zenith shown above, but there was no sign of its 38 crew.
"It certainly looks as if the vessel has gone down," Coast Guard spokesman Richard Griggs told the Associated Press after life jackets marked "Grand Zenith" were retrieved 330 miles east of Cape Cod.
The tanker carried a Chinese crew of 30 from Taiwan and eight million gallons of heavy oil. Its captain, T.K. Tsou, had 30 years' experience at sea, the AP reported.
A person not wearing protective clothing would probably die after 2 1/2 hours in the 45-degree ocean water, according to the Coast Guard. By the time the debris was found, the Grand Zenith had been missing for a week.
It was the second accident involving an oil tanker off the coast of New England in less than a month. On Dec. 15, the Boston-bound Argo Merchant ran aground 25 miles southeast of Nantucket and broke apart six days later, spilling its cargo of 7.6 million gallons of oil into the North Atlantic.
The Grand Zenith left Teesport, England on Dec. 19 heading for Somerset, Mass., where its oil was to be used to generate electricity.
"CQD" is understood by wireless operators to mean, "All stations: distress." Contrary to popular belief, CQD does not stand for "Come Quick, Danger", "Come Quickly: Distress", or "Come Quick - Drowning!".
Photos courtesy of Wiki Commons and Chatham's Marconi Maritime Center.