Peggy Say, 74, who spent nearly seven years on a tireless quest for the release of her brother, journalist Terry Anderson, and his fellow hostages from kidnappers in Lebanon, died on Wednesday in in Cookeville, Tenn.

Anderson, the chief Middle East correspondent for the Associated Press when he was abducted from the streets of Beirut in 1985 in the midst of the country's civil war, said his sister died after a long illness.

A self-described housewife, Mrs. Say quickly became her brother's most prominent public champion, keeping his fate and that of the other hostages in Lebanon in the public eye as the years went by.

"We were allowed a radio from time to time, and we did hear about her efforts and the efforts of other hostages' families on the radio, and of course it was always a great comfort," said Anderson, who was held by the pro-Iranian Shiite Muslim militant faction Islamic Jihad for 2,454 days.

Anderson was released on Dec. 4, 1991. He was the longest-held of 92 foreigners abducted during the civil war in Le. Most were ultimately freed. Eleven died or were killed in captivity.

Mrs. Say was living in Batavia, N.Y., when her brother was taken hostage. She moved to the western Kentucky town of Cadiz to find more privacy for herself and her husband, David, in 1988. He died in 2012.

Mrs. Say's activism didn't come without criticism. Some Washington officials at the time contended her vocal approach prolonged the hostages' captivity by compromising behind-the-scenes efforts to free them.

She was dismissive of them.

"I did what I had to do as his sister," she said on the eve of her brother's release in 1991. "I don't think the United Nations would ever have intervened if we had not kept the plight of Terry and other people alive."

She believed it was the U.N.'s intervention that eventually won freedom for the final U.S. hostages.

Mrs. Say met periodically with then-U.N. Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar. Her travels put her face to face with Pope John Paul II, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, the president of Greece, Syria's foreign minister, and an associate of notorious terrorist Abu Nidal.

Anderson said his sister had retired after working on behalf of victims of domestic violence.

- Associated Press