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Oyster Bay Celebrates the Heroic Life of Foreign War Correspondent Marie Colvin

If you are desirous of an impressive, meaningful funeral, lead an impressive meaningful life. That is the message of Marie Colvin’s life, which she lived with passion whether working or having fun. She was a full-throttle lady with nothing withheld. She surrounded herself with friends as accomplished as she. Katrina Heron, her roommate from Yale, designed her memorial website and gave the eulogy at the funeral mass at St. Dominic Roman Catholic Church on Monday, March 12, for the fearless 56-year-old journalist who died in Syria three weeks ago.

Ms. Heron looked out at the assembled in the sprawling church interior and said they were there to celebrate Marie’s life. She said of Marie, “She would be delighted to see all the people here whom she loved, and would say, ‘Can we move this party? [laughter of recognition] I know a great little place down the street!’ That voice is unmistakable isn’t it? Expansive, amused, irresistably self-confident, self-deprecating, full of passion, full of belief, fierce in its loyalties, alive, always freeing space never merely filling it. Marie sought after life, and beauty and wisdom, and truth, and fun.  She came trailing clouds of glory–and pandemonium.  We have enough stories about Marie for many lifetimes.”

Ms. Heron said she followed Marie in “possibly hair-brained adventures.

“She sailed all her life, like a bird in flight, and grew up sailing on Oyster Bay. I picture her sailing on a beautiful day.

“But skimming down the Long Island Expressway with her by-dark-of-night in her sports car, you would run out of gas because of her bold insistence that the temperature needle was the fuel gauge. [Laughter.] Such catastrophe, however, bred only mirth from this intrepid reporter so completely in command of her craft who came home to us to love, to play, to have fun.

“She had a genius for bringing people together and a scattering for much everything else.”

Ms. Heron told of adventures with Marie and said she, herself, was “utterly, sublimely defenseless against her laughter.”

She confided that there was a private side of Marie Colvin:  “the self-taxing writer, the aspiring scholar of history, student of prose and poetry, and the fragile woman who would have loved to be happy in love. She struggled with worldly woes. She had ever greater risks in her work, but best of all, Marie trusted life. “She went anywhere with her cache of reporter’s notebooks and her pearls.”

She kept in touch with her friends with long phone calls. Ms. Heron said, “She would describe where she was, saying ‘You would love it here. It’s just like New York City, except without bars, restaurants, shops, telephones or taxis.”

In a letter Marie wrote to her, Ms. Heron took note of Marie’s belief in the kindredness of the world and that it was important to have something to care passionately about. Ms. Heron said Marie chose her dangerous career along those lines; chose it rather than putting in time at a desk assignment. She chose it and died for it. “We are so proud of her,” said Ms. Heron.

She also quoted Marie Colvin from a speech she made at a memorial for injured and fallen journalists on Nov. 2010 at Saint Marie Church on Fleet Street [the center of the newspaper world in London] saying war reporting was still essential, “someone has to go there and see what is happening. You can’t get that information without going to places where people are being shot at, and others are shooting at you. The real difficulty is having enough faith in humanity to believe that enough people, be they government, military or the man on the street, will care when your file reaches the printed page, the website or the TV screen.

“We do have faith because we believe we do make a difference,” said Ms. Colvin in her speech.

Ms. Heron called Marie a beloved daughter, beloved sister, beloved girl and beloved woman. She ended with a reading from Marie’s favorite poem, Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself:

“The spotted hawk swoops by and accuses me, he complains of my gab and my loitering.

“I too am not a bit tamed, I too am untranslatable,
I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world.

“The last scud of day holds back for me,
It flings my likeness after the rest and true as any on the shadow’d wilds,
It coaxes me to the vapor and the dusk.

“I depart as air, I shake my white locks at the runaway sun,
I effuse my flesh in eddies, and drift it in lacy jags.

“I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love,
If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles.

“You will hardly know who I am or what I mean,
But I shall be good health to you nevertheless,
And filter and fibre your blood.

“Failing to fetch me at first keep encouraged,
Missing me one place search another,
I stop somewhere waiting for you.”

Ms. Heron concluded her reading.

Family and Friends Prayers

After Ms. Heron concluded, Douglas Watson, the husband of Marie’s sister, Aileen, read the first reading, a passage from the book of Wisdom.

Marie’s best friend from her teen years, Jerelyn Hanrahan, internationally known Oyster Bay artist, read Psalm 23. Jane Wellesley, a British colleague, read from 2 Timothy.

The Rev. Dennis Mason read from the book of Matthew and said that Marie was the “voice of the voiceless.” She was persecuted for righteousness; and was the most respected and selfless journalist of her generation. He noted her family’s commitment to faith, education and service. He added of her family’s home, “You never know what language you will hear when you walk in the door, but you always know you will be received as family.” He told a story of the family being served pizza, and their grandmother giving everyone a potato – “because in an Irish home, no meal was complete without a potato.”

He said, “Blessed are you, Marie, who sought to bring peace through justice. You are a child of God. Our sadness and our tears are signs of our love and how blessed Marie was to us.”

Sean Ryan, foreign news editor of London’s The Sunday Times spoke of her work in Syria. He prayed for the leaders of all nations and those in authority so that they will govern wisely and justly. He prayed for those who live with violence, war and hunger, and especially those in Syria. He said, “Marie spoke for the innocent and proclaimed truth to the world.” He mentioned Remi Ochlik, the French photojournalist who died with Marie in the Baba Amr district of Homs, Syria, in a bombing of an improvised media center that was shelled by government forces. Mr. Ochlik shined his light on that violence for the world to see, he said.

At the wake for Marie on Saturday, March 10, Mr. Ryan said after meeting and learning more of her family, “that the kitten was very much like the cat”: that the Colvin family inspired their daughter in her concern for the rest of humanity.

Publisher Rupert Murdoch, owner of The Sunday Times among other publications, attended the service. He met with the family in a private service prior to arriving at the church and sent two vases of calla lilies that were on the altar during the service.

Ms. Colvin was cremated following her wishes.