Peggy Say, who worked for years to gain the release of her brother, Terry Anderson, from kidnappers in Lebanon, died Wednesday, the Associated Press reports. She was 74.
Anderson, a former Associated Press reporter and former resident of Batavia, spent nearly seven years in captivity at the hands of Hezbollah in Lebanon from 1985 to 1991. During those years, Say led a tireless campaign to free her brother. She was a fixture in newspaper articles and on television as she used every means she could imagine to keep his cause alive and fight for his freedom.
After working years for his release, Say’s joy could not be contained as she ran to her brother and embraced him in Wiesbaden, Germany.
At his first detailed news conference in Germany after his release, Anderson pumped his fist triumphantly. But he quickly lost composure, saying he had been “just stunned” by the coverage devoted to his release, and began:
“I’m very, very happy . . .”
He broke down and, weeping, buried his head on Mrs. Say’s shoulder.
His sister “just startled me with her ability, forcefulness, dedication and intelligence,” Anderson said.
Eventually, Say wrote a book about her efforts called, appropriately, “Forgotten.”
Anderson told the Associated Press that his sister died Wednesday of a lung disease. She was living in Cookeville, Tenn.
Her husband, David, died in 2012.
Say was a tireless crusader for her brother’s freedom after his capture by Lebanese Shiite Muslims with close ties to Iran. The Batavia native knocked on doors of politicians and world leaders in her quest to keep Anderson’s cause in the limelight.
Her efforts helped bolster Anderson’s morale while he was held. He became the longest held foreign hostage of that conflict.
In a visit to the University at Buffalo 10 months after his release, Anderson said he was aware of Say’s work to publicize the plight of the hostages. The hostages sometimes were given radios and newspapers, he said.
“The first time I heard Peg’s voice on Armed Forces Radio, I cried,” he said.
Anderson returned to Batavia in 2011 as part of the city’s inaugural Celebration of Peace dinner, and spoke kindly of Say.
“I admire my big sister a lot,” Anderson said.
After Anderson’s release, Say began helping victims of domestic violence.
“The final healing takes place when you’re able to take that very ugly experience and turn it around to help somebody else,” she told People magazine in 1994.
Anderson told the magazine he was not surprised by her newest job.
“She’s very strong and determined, and she doesn’t do it halfway,” he said. “She’s never been ordinary.”