Marie Colvin mourned by family, colleagues

Rosemarie Colvin, mother of veteran war correspondent Marie Colvin, talks about her daughter's love of life and career. Videojournalists: Jim Staubitser and Howard Schnapp (Feb. 22, 2012)

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Marie Colvin's editor urged her to leave Syria immediately because it had become too dangerous, but the veteran foreign correspondent from Long Island insisted on staying one more day -- to file yet another battlefield dispatch.

That story would not be told. Colvin, who courageously covered war zones for a quarter century, was killed Wednesday in a rocket attack in the embattled city of Homs.

"She was totally, totally committed to what she did," her mother, Rosemarie Colvin, said at her home in East Norwich. In the living room, a photography book -- "Modern Muses" by Bryan Adams -- was opened to a portrait of her daughter.

Recounting the story of her daughter's refusal to leave Syria, she added: "She died doing what was really important to her."

Marie Colvin, 56, a 1974 graduate of Oyster Bay High School, earned international acclaim as a fearless reporter for The Sunday Times of London. From the West Bank, Sri Lanka, Kosovo, Zimbabwe and East Timor, to the recent Arab uprisings in the Middle East, Colvin made it her mission to expose injustice and human suffering, colleagues said.

In 2001, when she was in Sri Lanka, an exploding hand grenade destroyed her left eye. Ruling out a prosthetic, she chose to wear a black eye patch -- making her a striking figure in the field.

"I never met a person with more courage," journalist T.D. Allman of The Daily Beast wrote. "She was always on the side of truth. She was always on the side of the oppressed. She never once tired. She never once faltered."

John Witherow, editor of The Sunday Times, said Colvin was "driven by a passion to cover wars in the belief that what she did mattered. She believed profoundly that reporting could curtail the excesses of brutal regimes and make the international community take notice."

Her numerous awards include the 2000 Courage in Journalism Award from the International Women's Media Foundation. In 2010, the Foreign Press Association named her Woman Journalist of the Year.

Colvin, a Yale University graduate who lived in London for years, idolized Martha Gelhorn, the famous war correspondent who once partnered with Ernest Hemingway, her family said.

"She grew up in a time when a lot of things were happening with women, with Vietnam and the civil rights movement," her mother said, noting that Colvin marched in Washington, D.C., to protest the Vietnam War when she was in high school. "Everything she did, she did with determination and passion."

"She was always after the truth," said Jerelyn Hanrahan, 55, of Oyster Bay, who counted Colvin as her best friend in high school. "In a way, it kept her grounded because she really believed in everything she was doing."

Colvin went to Yale planning to be an anthropologist, then took a seminar with "Hiroshima" author John Hersey and "just got hooked on writing," her mother said.

Joe McDermott, who now leads the Consortium for Worker Education, said he hired Colvin in 1978 to write for Teamsters Local 237's News and Views newspaper. She worked there until 1980, when she became a reporter for United Press International.

"It was glorious," he said. "She was full of life."

He said she had an amazing presence. "She caught on fast and she wrote fast," he said.

Colvin, who joined The Sunday Times about 25 years ago, was the oldest of five children. She had been previously married twice.

Survivors include her brothers, William of East Meadow and Michael of South Norwalk, Conn.; and her sisters, Cathleen Colvin of Oyster Bay and Aileen Horton of Alpharetta, Ga.

Funeral arrangements are pending the family's efforts to get Colvin's body out of Syria.

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