Marie Colvin funeral draws hundreds of mourners

Friends, family and industry leaders gathered, at the Church of St. Dominic in Oyster Bay to remember war correspondent, Marie Colvin. Videojournalist: Jim Staubitser (March 12, 2012)

Marie Colvin was remembered Monday as a courageous journalist -- "full of passion, full of belief" -- who devoted her career to exposing injustice and oppression in war-torn lands.

Colvin, who grew up in East Norwich and became an award-winning foreign correspondent for The Sunday Times of London, was an "intrepid reporter" who repeatedly put her life on the line, said family friend Katrina Heron.

"Marie lived her will, lived it fully and died for it," said Heron, whose eulogy extolled Colvin's "near-unimaginable bravery." Colvin, 56, was killed Feb. 22 along with French photographer Remí Ochlik during a Syrian military rocket attack against rebels in the beleaguered city of Homs.

More than 200 mourners attended the funeral at the Church of St. Dominic in Oyster Bay, a crowd dotted with former colleagues and admirers, including media mogul Rupert Murdoch, owner of The Sunday Times.

Before the service, Murdoch hailed Colvin as "the greatest war correspondent we've had," adding: "And, I think, probably the best in the world."

During her 25-year career, Colvin forged a reputation as a daring and devoted journalist, among the first to enter and last to leave a war zone.

She escaped a close call in 2001, when she lost her left eye in a grenade explosion while covering a civil war in Sri Lanka. Since then, she had worn a distinctive black eyepatch.

The 1974 Oyster Bay High School graduate studied anthropology at Yale, but discovered her passion while taking journalism classes.

After joining the London paper in 1986, she became a globe-trotting correspondent, reporting on conflicts in battle zones as disparate as the West Bank, Sierra Leone, Kosovo and East Timor.

To many of her former colleagues, Colvin will always be an inspiration, said John Witherow, editor of The Sunday Times, who also attended the funeral.

"We have to tell the world what is going on, and that's why she was there," he said. "That's why she was taking those risks."

Another side of Colvin was also remembered Monday, the lighthearted woman who loved sailing off the coast of Long Island. "I picture her sailing on a beautiful bay," Heron said.

The service's solemn mood was occasionally broken by laughter as mourners remembered her "expansive" personality and room-brightening charisma.

A crucifix lay atop Colvin's coffin, positioned in the church's center aisle and covered by a beige cloth. Mourners sang hymns and recited prayers, including one for the people of Syria.

"We can see Jesus taking Marie by the hand and saying, 'Blessed are you, Marie, in your hunger and your thirst for righteousness,' " and in being "a voice for the voiceless," said the Rev. Dennis Mason.

Several Syrian-Americans and Sri Lankans attended the service to pay their respects.

"She is going to be eternally with the Syrian people," said Malek Jandali, a Syrian-American musician from Atlanta, Ga. "She was trying to tell the truth to the world and expose those crimes, vicious crimes, against humans."

Colvin's relatives did not speak at the service. They walked together, some holding hands and hugging one another.

Rosemarie Colvin, of East Norwich, the journalist's mother, led them in silently placing white and red roses on the coffin before leaving the church.

With John Valenti

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