TORONTO (AP) — Canadian Prime Minister-designate Justin Trudeau, former Prime Minister Joe Clark and the U.S. ambassador attended the funeral of Canada's former ambassador to Iran who sheltered American diplomats at his residence during the 1979-80 hostage crisis.
Ken Taylor died on Oct. 16 at the age of 81 after a two-month battle with colon cancer.
After Iranian protesters took over the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in November 1979, a small group of Americans who worked in the separate consulate annex fled into the streets of Tehran. Six Americans eventually found refuge at Taylor's residence and at the home of his deputy, John Sheardown, for three months. Taylor facilitated their escape by arranging plane tickets and persuading the Canadian government to issue fake passports.
Taylor was heralded in the U.S. and Canada as a hero for helping save the Americans in the clandestine operation. He was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal and President Ronald Reagan paid tribute to Taylor at the White House.
Clark, Canada's prime minister in 1979, said at the funeral that Taylor's conduct and courage earned him the admiration of the world.
"Yet, it was a very Canadian thing to do," Clark said.
Some of Taylor's exploits in Iran in 1979 later became the subject of the 2012 Oscar-winning Hollywood film, "Argo." But Taylor and others, including former-U.S. President Jimmy Carter, felt the film downplayed his role and that of Canada in the operation.
At the funeral, Rip Mason, Taylor's longtime lawyer and friend, said the mere mention of "Argo" made the ambassador's friends shudder.
Pat Taylor, Taylor's wife of 55 years, said her husband was fiercely loyal to his friends. Taylor is also survived by his son, Douglas, and two grandchildren.
"My grandfather was simply a legend," granddaughter Kassia Taylor said.
Douglas Taylor said his dad's generosity knew no limits and "American Express loved him for it."
After leaving Iran, the Calgary-born Taylor moved to New York as Canada's consul general. He lived in New York right up until his death.