The purported beheading of American photojournalist James Foley by Islamic State militants has sent shockwaves around the world.

Many of Foley’s friends and colleagues are remembering the 40-year-old as a kind and dedicated journalist who didn’t let fear stand in the way of his reporting from conflict zones.

Foley was on a freelance assignment for GlobalPost, a Boston-based online publication, when he was kidnapped in Syria on Nov. 22, 2012. He had also freelanced for Agence France-Presse.

A Rochester, New Hampshire native, Foley started pursuing a journalism career later in life. He worked as a teacher for years before attending Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism in 2008.

A few years later, he told journalism students at his alma matter that his brother, a soldier, inspired him to report from war zones.

Before he vanished in Syria, Foley survived a kidnapping in Libya in 2011. He was released after 44 days in captivity and spoke at length about his experience upon his return to the U.S.

In a letter to Marquette University, where he obtained an arts degree in the 1990s, Foley said his faith got him through those dark days in Libya.

“If nothing else, prayer was the glue that enabled my freedom, an inner freedom first and later the miracle of being released during a war in which the regime had no real incentive to free us,” he wrote. 

Another American journalist who was detained in Libya along with Foley wrote about their ordeal and recalled how Foley kept everyone’s spirits up.

“We shared a cell for two and a half weeks, and every day he came up with lists for us to talk through,” Clare Morgana Gillis wrote in May 2013.  “Top 10 movies. Favourite books…Which famous person would you most like to meet? What’s your life story?” 

She said everyone who met Foley immediately liked him because he had a good sense of humour and was “famously even-tempered” in tough situations.

“Jim sees the good in nearly everything and everyone,” she wrote. “He is a master motivator.”