A State Department official phoned Linda Anders at her parents' home in Port Charlotte, Fla., at 11 a. m. yesterday with the good news; her husband, Robert, 54, a consular official with the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, had made good his escape and was alive and well.

"They haven't told me when he's coming back [to the United States], but I'm sure it's soon," she said in a telephone interview last night.

Joseph Stafford, an engineer for Occidental Petroleum, said he was also "walking on water," after learning that his son and daughter-in-law, Joseph D. Stafford and his wife, Kathleen, were among the six American diplomats spirited out of Iran by the Canadians.

The relatives said they had been asked to keep what was perhaps the best-kept secret in U.S. diplomatic history -- six Americans in hiding at the Canadian Embassy -- for fear that word of the missing diplomats would spark a search for the fugitives.

"It was a well-kept secret, wasn't it?" Linda Anders laughed.

The former Alexandria resident and a staff assistant for the National League of Cities had resettled in Athens, Greece, with her three children while her husband worked at the embassy in Tehran, she said. That was in September, during tense times.

Her husband move the family into a small apartment in Athens, and returned to Tehran. A month later, on Nov. 4, the Americans were taken hostages, but he apparently managed to escape during the embassy takeover, she said, and made his way to the Canadian Embassy.

Within 24 hours of the American Embassy seizure, state department officials informed her that her husband was not being held hostage. But they declined to furnish her with circumstances of his escape or of his hideout.