Friends, former hostages praise Terry Anderson, AP reporter and philanthropist, at memorial service

NEW YORK (AP) — Fellow former hostages, family and coworkers celebrated the life of journalist and philanthropist Terry Anderson Wednesday, remembering a man who helped others while struggling to heal himself.

The news writer became a news subject when he was taken hostage in Lebanon by members of an Islamic extremist group in 1985. At the time, he was chief Middle East correspondent for The Associated Press, had one daughter and his future wife was six months pregnant. He was one of the longest-held hostages in U.S. history, captive for 2,454 days.

Anderson died on April 21 at his home in Greenwood Lake, New York. He was 76. The memorial on Wednesday was shown on YouTube by the Overseas Press Club.

More than a year into captivity, two new hostages were moved into his jail, men from Northern Ireland and England who spoke at his memorial from the AP office in New York. They said Anderson's hunger for intellectual stimulation had him verbally pounce on them, squeezing them for knowledge of current events, histories of their homelands and any shred of literature they could share.

He “prodded and poked at something for weeks and weeks until you almost had nothing left to tell him," said Brian Keenan, originally from Belfast, who was teaching English in Beirut when he was kidnapped and later found himself imprisoned with Anderson.

“Terry’s bullish, stubborn nature was a really vital part of our survival together,” said John McCarthy, a British journalist and fellow hostage who attended the memorial, crediting him for pestering guards to give them books, a radio at one point and crucially — respect. "It was about constantly reminding the men with the guns ... that we were human beings.”

Terry Anderson received a hero’s welcome when he was freed in 1991, from the AP and New York state. Mourners remembered how he kept his sense of humor. Louis Boccardi, who had been leading the AP for two-and-half-months when Anderson was kidnapped, had arranged for Anderson to spend time in the mountains in Europe to speak with trauma counselors.

“'I haven’t been in the warm sunshine for six and a half years. And you want me to go to the Alps?'” Boccardi recalled Anderson saying. The counseling was moved to the Caribbean.

Anderson struggled with PTSD and, his ex-wife revealed at the memorial, was unable to fully heal from his ordeal. But he was rarely idle and pursued healing and growth for others. Anderson taught journalism and led philanthropic efforts to help children and veterans.

“Terry wanted his students to write with purpose and conviction, to speak the truth through power, with authority and without fear,” said Keenan.

A Vietnam War veteran, Anderson helped found the Vietnam Children’s Fund, which built 51 schools in that country over decades.

On Wednesday, New York State Sen. James Skoufis presented a posthumous Liberty Medal for Anderson's contributions to journalism and his advocacy for homeless veterans in Hudson Valley. Skoufis said that Anderson spent seven years advocating for funding for a veteran's housing program, which was approved only months ago, in the form of a $1 million federal grant.