Swiss couple found on glacier after 75 years buried at last

July 23, 2017 8:23 am
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The remains of the couple were discovered preserved in the receding Tsanfleuron glacier by an employee at a local ski resort © POLICE CANTONALE VALAISANNE/AFP / handout

, GENEVA, Jul 23 – The remains of a couple, found on a receding glacier in the Swiss Alps 75 years after they had disappeared, were at long last buried on Saturday near their native village.

Their two surviving daughters were present at the funeral service in the church at Saviese in Valais canton, a few kilometres from Chandolin where Marcelin Dumoulin and his wife Francine were living when they disappeared on August 15, 1942.

“Of course it is a relief to have found them, but it brings back memories because a tragedy like that, one doesn’t forget,” Monique Gautschy, one of the surviving children who was 11 at the time, told AFP by phone.

The funeral, also attended by the couple’s grandchildren, great-grandchildren and local villagers, was held in the church where the couple had attended mass on August 15 before setting out on their trek, a priest Jean Varone told the ATS press agency.

Dumoulin, then 40, and his 37-year-old wife had left their home that morning hoping to check on their cattle, which were being kept in an alpine pasture in neighbouring Bern canton.

The fastest route at the time was via a glacier footpath. The sky was clear when the couple set out, but clouds later worsened visibility and the pair vanished, likely after falling into a crevasse, orphaning their five sons and two daughters.

“I saw them leave that Saturday morning,” recalled Gautschy of that fatal day. “They were supposed to spend the night in the alpine pasture at Grilden and come back on Sunday.”

– ‘I cried every day’ –

After two months of fruitless searching for their parents, the seven children, then aged 2 to 13, were placed in foster care.

After more then seven decades the remains of their parents were discovered on July 13 — preserved in the Tsanfleuron glacier at an altitude of 2,600 metres (8,500 feet) — by an employee of a local ski resort.

Police confirmed the identification of the remains of the couple to their two surviving daughters on Wednesday © POLICE CANTONALE VALAISANNE/AFP / handout

Backpacks, a watch and other personal belongings had been preserved in the ice nearby.

Gautschy told AFP that police called to inform her of the definitive identification early on Wednesday.

“I would have loved so much to see them one last time, to kiss them, but I was advised against it because they told me bodies found in snow or water decay very quickly and it would have been a shock,” she said on Saturday.

The remains of her parents in white-wood coffins were later cremated and their ashes buried at the Saviese cemetery next to those of their oldest son, Gautschy said.

“From my kitchen, I see the mountain where Papa and Mama disappeared. I cried every day thinking of them. Now I know where they are.”

The priest at the Saviese church summed up the feelings at the funeral, saying “three-quarters of a century later the family can at last stop asking the question: ‘what happened to them?’

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