March 29, 2013

Arlington burial for Saranac Lake veteran

SARANAC LAKE — Dr. Rene Joyeuse touched many worlds in one 92-year lifetime.

He was an international spy, decorated military operative, surgeon, the founder of modern trauma-response techniques and invented the first replacement heart valve.

And he was a husband, father and fisherman.

Joyeuse’s legacy began with outstanding military service. His passing last June was the final crossing from quiet retirement in the rural Adirondack village that he called home for more than 20 years.

Serving the Allied forces in World War II, he was decorated with the Distinguished Service Cross by Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower himself.

In his later years, Joyeuse expressed a desire for a burial at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.

Inquiry by family after the doctor’s death last summer met with initial denial by the U.S. military because, though he served American forces, the veteran agent was born in Switzerland.


A sequence of events as storied as the life the former spy led to eventual approval at the bequest of the Joyeuse family, Secretary of the Army John McHugh, CIA Director David Petraeus, military historian and author Patrick O’Donnell, Saranac Lake Mayor Clyde Rabideau and veteran friends.

O’Donnell, a veteran of the war in Iraq, first met and interviewed Joyeuse about 10 years ago.

Joyeuse’s story of escape from a house in the French countryside surrounded by Germans during World War II is the stuff of legend.

Shot in the hand and kneecap, cut and bruised, he leaped over gates, scaled walls and hid behind a door in a stranger’s house while German troops searched for him.

He shared the intrigue and nuance of World War II espionage with O’Donnell, who was struck by the modesty of the former Allied spy who became a medical doctor.

“I was immediately drawn to him,” the author told the Press-Republican on Thursday.

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