Former Liberal senator Philippe Gigantes has died after a battle with cancer.

Gigantes passed away at Montreal's Ste-Anne's Veterans Hospital in the early morning on Dec. 9. He was 81 years old.

The former journalist, educator and naval hero was born in Salonica, Greece, the son of one of Greece's most famous heroes of its war of independence and the First World War.

Gigantes became a hero himself during the Second World War. As a member of the Royal Navy he became "one of the [British navy's] most decorated veterans .... even though he was Greek," said longtime friend Jamie Lamb from his office in Vancouver.

Gigantes became a journalist after the war and travelled the world for the London Observer.

During the Korean War, even though he was a journalist, he was taken prisoner and spent 33 months in a North Korean prison camp.

He later emigrated to Canada where he worked for the Globe and Mail before taking up a university position in Alberta.

In the 1970s Gigantes became a speech writer and top aide to Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. In 1980 he tried his luck running against Bob Rae in the heavily Greek populated riding of Broadview-Greenwood, but was defeated by the NDP MP.

Four years later Trudeau appointed Gigantes to the Senate, where he served for the next 14 years.

Gigantes had recently written articles for Maclean's magazine describing the battle against cancer. He was also the author of 15 books. His latest was Power and Greed, which was published in 2002.

Gigantes was predeceased by his wife Sylvie. He is survived by three daughters and three granddaughters.

One of his final requests was that he be cremated and his ashes be spread in the Mediterranean, close to his native Greece.