An estimated 800 mourners attended the April 27 memorial service for photographer Chris Hondros. The service was held at the Sacred Hearts St. Stephens Church in Brooklyn, where Hondros and his fiancée had planned to hold their wedding this August. Hondros died in Misrata, Libya on April 20, in a mortar attack that also killed photographer Tim Hetherington.
Hetherington was remembered in prayers offered during the service. Prayers were also offered for “those courageous and steadfast journalists and photographers working in the field today, shining the light of truth on the world,” as well as for “those who live and die with violence and war each day.”
The music of the service, performed by the Brooklyn Rider quartet as well as two church organists, a violinist and trumpet player, included selections by Mahler, Schubert and Bach. Reporter Regis Le Sommier of Paris Match, who had worked with Hondros in Afghanistan and on many other news stories, noted in his eulogy that Hondros so loved classical music that he had listened to Bach’s Goldberg Variations while waiting out a hurricane in Texas.
In his homily, Father Anthony J. Sansone described Hondros as a “prophetic humanist.” Sansone, who had recently counseled Hondros and his fiancée, Christina Piaia, in preparation for their wedding, said Hondros worked to document “the suffering and the heartbroken” out of a sense of conscience and a commitment to making the public aware of perspectives beyond their own.
Writer Greg Campbell, who had known Hondros since he was 14, said he had received words of condolence from people in 24 countries, including old friends as well as people who only knew Hondros from his photos. He noted that Hondros would have encouraged his friends to maintain the connections and relationships that have formed in what Campbell called “this dark week.” Pancho Bernasconi of Getty Images, who said he liked to call Hondros “my photographer,” said the award-winning photojournalist is remembered as “that rare friend” who offered encouragement and comfort at the worst of times.
Speaking in a clear, calm voice, Piaia noted that on at a recent visit to the church, Hondros had looked out over the pews and talked about how many people they would need to invite to their wedding. Piaia told the standing-room only crowd, “Now every seat is occupied, every row is filled, but we are celebrating something more profound: the life of our friend Chris.” Hondros taught her “life is fragile,” she said, adding, “We didn’t take each other for granted.” She told the mourners she did not want them to feel sad, but to know “how fulfilled we have been in the last year.”
At the end of the service, pallbearers Todd Heisler, Tyler Hicks, John Moore, Jeff Swensen, Joe Raedle, Andreas Gebhard, Spencer Platt and Pierce Wright carried the coffin outside, as the church bell tolled 41 times for every year of Hondros’s life.
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