Wife of AP Reporter Imprisoned During Cold War Dies in Port Jeff Station

Laurabelle Zack Oatis wrote letter to Czech governement in 1950s pleading for her husband.

Laurabelle Zack Oatis, the wife of William N. Oatis, an Associated Press reporter who was held by the Czechoslovakian government in the 1950s at the height of the cold war has died in a Port Jefferson Station nursing home, according to a story in The Seattle Times. She was 88 and from complications of a stroke.

"William Oatis, the AP's Prague bureau chief, was freed in 1953 after spending two years in prison," the paper reported. "He had been sentenced by a communist court to 10 years in prison after being forced to confess to espionage. The case made international headlines and led to U.S. trade and travel embargoes against Czechoslovakia. The Czech government said it had been moved to pardon Oatis because of his wife's poignant letter pleading for his release."

Oatis met her husband while working in the reference library of the Associated Press in New York, according to a library history blog. The blog also said that Oatis' nickname was "Betty Boop" because she resembled the famous cartoon character.

Her son Jonathan Oatis, a former AP editor, said that a graveside service is scheduled for Monday at Calverton National Cemetery.

To read the full story, please click here.


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