COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — Hundreds of friends and colleagues gathered Sunday for a memorial celebration for Armando Montano, a news intern for The Associated Press who died at age 22 in Mexico City.
The service was held at Colorado College, where Montano's parents, Diane Alters and Mario Montano, both teach. It was by turns tearful and full of laughter as those gathered recounted how Montano — who was known as "Mando"— had great passion for journalism, family, friends and life.
"If you are a journalist, take Mando's legacy and tell the stories he would have," said Aaron Edwards, a friend who, like Montano, served as a Chips Quinn Scholar with the Freedom Forum for Diversity in 2011.
Among the tributes Sunday were those from Montano's colleagues in Colorado, Mexico and elsewhere around the world. In honor of his life, the song "Gracias a la Vida" by the late Argentine artist Mercedes Sosa was performed, as well as a video and a slide show montage compiled by his friends and family.
"We gather to celebrate a life richly lived," Chaplin Bruce Coriell said.
Montano's body was found June 30 in the elevator shaft of an apartment building near his home in Mexico City's Condesa neighborhood. The circumstances of his death are still being investigated by Mexican authorities.
He was not on assignment at the time of his death.
Montano arrived in Mexico City in early June after graduating from Grinnell College with a bachelor's degree in Spanish and a concentration in Latin American studies.
In Mexico, Montano profiled the saga of nine African elephants that were flown to a Mexican animal reserve. He captured the flurry of excitement surrounding a Mexico City concert by Justin Bieber that drew an estimated 200,000 fans. And he helped cover the fatal shootings of three federal policemen at the Mexico City airport.
He had planned to attend a master's degree program in journalism at the University of Barcelona in the fall.
Montano covered January's Iowa presidential caucuses as a news intern for The New York Times. In 2010, he covered policy and finance for The Chronicle of Higher Education in Washington, D.C. He was a multimedia and reporting intern at The Colorado Independent, an online news service, and a reporting and investigative intern at The Seattle Times.
At the Scarlet & Black, Grinnell College's student newspaper, he worked as an editor and writer.
Montano received an Ellen Masin Persina Scholarship from the National Press Club in 2008. He was a Newhouse Scholar with the National Association of Hispanic Journalists in 2008 and a Chips Quinn Scholar from the Freedom Forum for Diversity in 2011. He belonged to the National Association of Hispanic Journalists and the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association.
Two scholarships have been set up in honor of Montano:
— A fund has been set up to award annual Armando Montaño Scholarships to help deserving students at the New York Times Student Journalism Institute move forward with their educational or professional ambitions. Montano was a member of the 2010 Class of the Institute.
Those wishing to make a contribution can send checks to:
Armando Montaño Scholarship Fund
The New York Times Student Journalism Institute
PO Box 2690
Times Square Station
New York, NY 10108
— At Grinnell College, efforts are under way to establish a program in Montano's name to enhance the professionalism of the Scarlet & Black student newspaper.
Those wishing to help can contribute to:
Mando Montaño's Scarlet & Black Fund
Grinnell, Iowa 50112