Ken Taylor funeral honours famed diplomat in Toronto

Former Canadian diplomat Ken Taylor was described by his wife, Patricia, as someone with a "unique generosity of spirit" at his funeral Tuesday. Taylor, who died on Oct. 15 in New York City, was best known for sheltering Americans caught in the 1979 hostage crisis in Iran.

Former Canadian diplomat sheltered Americans in Tehran during 1979 crisis

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      Ken Taylor was honoured today as a charming, compassionate man who drew people to him throughout his life.

      A funeral service was held for the former Canadian diplomat at Timothy Eaton Memorial Church in Toronto. The Calgary-born Taylor died on Oct. 15 in a New York City hospital. He was 81.

      His wife recalled that while they had been married for 55 years, "for 57 years, he was my closest friend, confidant and adviser."

      "He always was very compassionate to anyone he knew who, in spite of their best efforts, was unable to accomplish their goals," she said. "He had quite a unique generosity of spirit."

      Douglas Taylor shares some of his father's experiences as Canadian ambassador to Iran, including his role in the 'Canadian Caper' 2:23

      Among those attending the funeral were prime minister-designate Justin Trudeau and Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne. Joe Clark, who was prime minister during the Iranian hostage crisis in 1979, said he and Taylor came together in "the most extraordinary of circumstances."

      "I knew him first as a public man, and then was really privileged to come to know him much more personally, and found him to be genuine, understated — which may surprise some people — and a very, very good friend."

      Clark said Taylor was also an "extraordinary representative of what Canada can be at our best."

      Taylor, who is best known for his work alongside his wife and others in Iran, was also a "highly competent professional diplomat," Clark said outside the church.

      "He was a forward-looking person, always," the former prime minister said.

      'A hero'

      Former Ontario premier Mike Harris, who also attended the funeral, said Taylor was a good friend and described him as a "wonderful, warm, generous man — and in addition to that, he was a hero."

      Taylor is survived by his wife, Patricia, his son, Douglas, and his wife, Dana, and two grandchildren.

      Former colleagues described him as a great friend who loved life and enjoyed it to the fullest.

      Taylor won international fame in 1979 after bringing the services of the Canadian mission in Tehran to the aid of six Americans who were trying to escape during the Iran hostage crisis.

      He kept the Americans hidden at his residence and at the Tehran home of his deputy, John Sheardown, for three months.  
      Ken Taylor's son Douglas discusses his father's feelings about the depiction of the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis in the Hollywood movie Argo 1:35

      Taylor helped make their escape possible by arranging plane tickets and persuading the Ottawa government to issue Canadian passports.

      This all occurred in the days after a mob of Iranians stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and took most people inside hostage on Nov. 4, 1979.

      The U.S. awarded Taylor the Congressional Gold Medal "for his valour and ingenuity in harbouring six American citizens … and ultimately in securing their safe return."

      After being appointed Canadian consul general in New York City in 1980, Taylor lived there for much of the rest of his life.

      With files from The Canadian Press and CBC's James Murray


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