Former OSS spy arrested during Selma protests dies

Published 3:33 pm Monday, September 28, 2020

A former OSS spy who joined the Civil Rights movement and was arrested during the Selma protests died on Saturday.

Patricia Warner, 99, died at her Lincoln, Massachusetts home.

Warner, who once worked undercover as a Flamenco dancer, was one of America’s last living female spies for the Office of Strategic Services. The OSS was the precursor of the Central Intelligence Agency.

According to a Boston Herald profile, Warner joined the OSS after her first husband was killed in the Pacific early in World War II.

“I can still remember the last time I saw him. It was at the elevator outside our sixth-floor apartment on 151 East 83rd Street in New York City. I followed him outside and we kissed goodbye and he was off to the Pacific,” Patricia said this summer.

“He’s the last person I see every night,” she added. “That was a real love affair doomed from the start. I knew he was going into the most dangerous place in the world then. I always hoped he’d get home. But he didn’t.”

A single mother with a son, she married college professor Charles Warner after the war and they went on to have five more children.

Warner joined the OSS at 22, when the Navy refused to allow widows to enlist.

“I’ll never forget the day we landed in Madrid. We touched down right next to enemy planes. They were dark and black with swastikas on them. It was pretty scary,” she said.

“This is the end of a historic era in American intelligence,” Charles Pinck, head of the OSS society, said Sunday of Patricia’s death. “These women never sought public acclaim.” They were told to keep it all secret.

Patricia Warner became an expert on anorexia and was named one of former President George H.W. Bush’s Thousand Points of Light for founding the Anorexia Nervosa Aid Society. She joined the Civil Rights movement, once getting arrested in Selma. She was also awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in May for her OSS exploits.