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Terry Anderson recalled as 'strong advocate' during Batavia Peace Garden service

By Joanne Beck
Paula Savage, President and founder of the international peace garden foundation speaking about Terry Anderson at the Holland Land Office  Photo by Steve Ognibene
Paula Savage, President and founder of the International Peace Garden Foundation, shares about Terry Anderson's involvement with the garden Saturday at the Holland Land Office Museum.
Photo by Steve Ognibene

Terry Anderson, a former Batavia resident and distinguished journalist who gained local and international celebrity status when he was taken hostage by an Iranian terrorist group, made a long-lasting imprint, including right here in Batavia at the Peace Garden on West Main Street, International Peace Garden President Paula Savage says.

Savage and others gathered Saturday at the garden alongside the Holland Land Office Museum to remember and honor Anderson, who died on April 21 at the age of 76.

“Terry really is a person who has made a mark, an indelible mark on this world, actually, with sacrifices that he made, what he's been through. And the fact that he comes from Batavia is just, it's a gift for us to behold,” Savage said. “But the International Peace Garden Foundation and the Friends of the Batavia Peace Garden, we wouldn't exist without each other. And my organization representing 22 countries around the world, and Batavia is one of those peace gardens. And Terry took a very sincere interest in the work that we were doing with this beautiful garden here in Batavia and the world because of what he had been through, and he decided that he was going to come here and help us out and give us the boost that we needed in order to launch this amazing fundraising program to build this, and it just keeps going on and on and on.

So what you see is what you get, but there’s going to be a lot more coming down the road, so to speak, keep an eye on us, because we’re going strong and we appreciate the support that we get from the entire community.”

A citation was read on behalf of state Assemblyman Steve Hawley commemorating April 27, 2024, for the life and legacy of Terry Anderson at the Batavia Peace Garden. Anderson was a resident of Batavia during his high school days, later flourishing in a career as a correspondent for The Associated Press and becoming the longest-held American hostage in war-torn Lebanon, the citation states. 

Anderson was held from March 16, 1985, until his release on Dec. 4, 1991. 

“Now, therefore, it is resolved that as a duly elected member of the State Assembly of New York, I recognize that today we remember Terry Anderson, an exceptional person who is worthy of the esteem of not only to the community but to the entire a state of New York and the world,” it states.

Anderson was the Beirut bureau chief in 1985 for the Associated Press when he was kidnapped by armed men who dragged him from his car after he dropped off a tennis partner following a match. The pistol-wielding men yanked him from his car and pushed him into a Mercedes-Benz.

The terrorists were reportedly members of Hezbollah, an Islamic Jihad Organization in Lebanon. He was reportedly blindfolded and beaten and kept in chains and moved to 20 different hideaways in Beirut, South Lebanon, and the Bekaa Valley.

His release came 2,454 days later following intense lobbying by his sister, Peggy Say.

Anderson didn’t forget his boyhood hometown upon his release, and his last public appearance in 2011 was memorable for many locals. He made the rounds, including to Genesee Community College, the History Department, and to dedicate the International Peace Garden.

One of America's most acclaimed and recognized journalists at the time, Anderson was invited to return to his former hometown to help raise funds for what was then a War of 1812 Peace Garden planned for a plot of land adjacent to the Holland Land Office Museum.

Co-founders Savage and Barb Toal said the project's paperwork began in 2010, and there were many hurdles to overcome to achieve the planned effort.

“We had the support of the Legislature at the time, and we still do, and we worked with them. When we first came here, we had the DEC, the EPA, the DOT, the city of Batavia, the town of Batavia,  the county of Genesee, and the state of New York. All these things we had to overcome, the Army Corps of Engineers, with a creek next door,” she said. “So I mean, if it wasn't the ability to bring peace to all those organizations to prove to them what we were trying to establish, this could have never happened.” 

And they broke ground a year later and were up and running by 2012, she said. The goal was to coincide with the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812 bicentennial. 

Former county manager Jay Gsell spoke about the importance of placement and said that this garden's location in Batavia means something.

“So it’s been placed between Buffalo and Rochester, which has made it, I think, why what you guys have pulled off here, not only significant but also there’s a kismet about it because it’s all about location, location, location,” he said. I think it also puts us on the map. Nothing wrong with that, that’s what the Chamber of Commerce is about. And by the same token, it’s because of you guys’ unfailing energy and commitment to doing this. And so congratulations, thank you and keep doing the great work that you do because that’s what this community is about.” 

Having the support of Anderson, who returned “without malice” after his horrendous ordeal and physical and mental suffering, means a great deal to garden volunteers, Savage said. 

“Especially after what he had been through. I mean, for someone to take up a project like this and to have him suffer the way he did. I think he just felt a sense of calm when he found out that this garden was going to be built and that we were going to promote peace around the world,” she said. “And you know, this guy, that’s what he became all about. He became a strong advocate in his own right.”

During that last visit to this area, Anderson was asked why he was part of the garden dedication and fundraising efforts.

"Why would I miss a chance to dedicate a peace garden?” he said. “It may be on a smaller scale, but why wouldn't I support it?"

Barbara Toal, President of the Batavia Peace Garden  Photo by Steve Ognibene
Barbara Toal, President of the Batavia Peace Garden.
Photo by Steve Ognibene


Members of the Batavia Peace Garden  Photo by Steve Ognibene
Members of Friends of Batavia Peace Garden.
Photo by Steve Ognibene
Batavia Peace Garden  Photo by Steve Ognibene
Batavia Peace Garden
Photo by Steve Ognibene

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