Ken Taylor, the Canadian ambassador to Iran who helped smuggle six American hostages home from the country in 1980, died Thursday of colon cancer at the age of 81, his wife tells the AP. For three months, Taylor and his deputy, John Sheardown, hid at their Tehran homes the six US hostages who escaped from the American Embassy after it was overrun by Iranian student radicals on Nov. 4, 1979. Along with the CIA, Taylor helped arrange the hostages' escape by procuring plane tickets and fake Canadian passports. It was an incredibly risky operation that included passport foul-ups and a suspicious airport official, but the six hostages flew to safety from Tehran's airport on Jan. 28, 1980, the New York Times reported.
Taylor's Iran exploits were chronicled both in the 2013 documentary Our Man in Tehran and in Ben Affleck's Oscar-winning Argo, though critics complained of the latter movie's inaccuracies, saying it minimized the Canadians' role in the rescue and gave most of the credit to the CIA. "Canada was not merely standing around watching events take place," Taylor told the Toronto Star in 2012. "The CIA was a junior partner." (Affleck later apologized and reworked the closing credits that mentioned Taylor's role, the Atlantic notes.) Meanwhile, Taylor's wife of 50 years, Pat, remembers one of her husband's most notable traits: his generous spirit. "He did all sorts of things for everyone without any expectation of something coming back," she tells the AP. "It's why that incident in Iran happened. There was no second thought about it."