Gabriel DeLobbe's remarkable life story was the subject of a documentary released last year. Now the 93-year-old photographer is Indiana's latest Sagamore of the Wabash. The Fort Wayne resident received the award Friday at his home – directly from Gov. Eric Holcomb.
Chris Flook, a lecturer in Ball State University's Department of Telecommunications, worked with DeLobbe's granddaughter, Nicole Lehrman, to create “Saboteur,” the documentary of DeLobbe's experience as a Belgian resistance fighter in World War II. After hearing the story during filming, Flook decided something more should be done to honor the immigrant's legacy, “not only for his contributions in the war, but also to honor his long career in Fort Wayne and as a Hoosier.”
He nominated DeLobbe for the Sagamore distinction, the state's highest civilian award, and soon learned the governor himself would make the presentation.
“Gabriel DeLobbe has an incredible story,” Holcomb tweeted Friday, along with photos of the award presentation. “During WWII, his family hid their Jewish neighbor in their home. He later joined the Belgium resistance, the American First Army and Patton's Third Army. I was beyond proud to present him with a Sagamore of the Wabash.”
DeLobbe was 14 when Nazis invaded his hometown in 1940. At 18, he was in the resistance, sabotaging German supply routes and helping protect downed Allied airmen in the Ardennes forest. He emigrated to Canada and eventually settled in Fort Wayne, where he worked as a photographer and helped establish the city's Sister Cities program.
You can watch “Saboteur” at vimeo.com/291238725