Boise & Garden City

Journalist detained in Bahrain lived in Boise until her parents died

Anna Therese Day
Anna Therese Day

Back when she was 6, Anna Therese Day and her older sister, Molly, then 9, donated $378 they raised growing pumpkins and squash to the Idaho Hunger Action Council.

Their contribution in 1994 was the third year in a row the Boise girls raised money for the council, which later merged with the Idaho Community Action Network.

Anna Day was the subject of international headlines this week after the freelance journalist and three members of her production crew were detained in Bahrain. They were covering demonstrations marking the fifth anniversary of the Arab Spring and were arrested after being accused of participating in an illegal gathering.

All four Americans were later released after appearing before a judge and allowed to leave the country. On Wednesday, Day issued a statement through two of her colleagues saying they were safe and in good health. It’s unclear whether they have returned to the United States.

“We are so grateful to the U.S. Embassy in Bahrain and to the hundreds of people who rallied around us to connect us to lawyers, journalists, politicians, and activists, and to those of you who simply shared your thoughts, prayers, and words of support,” Molly Day wrote on her Facebook page. “Your love meant the world to us these past 24 hours.”

Day’s parents, Boise attorneys Michael Day and Denise O’Donnell-Day, died within two years of one another in the late 1990s. Denise, 39, died on Dec. 28, 1996, while her 42-year-old husband died on April 29, 1998. They both succumbed to lung cancer, even though neither of them smoked, family friend Betsy Dunklin said.

“They were both highly respected — fine, fine people,” Dunklin said. “We all were just brokenhearted over their inexplicable deaths.”

Lisa Sanchez, who worked with Denise Day at the Idaho Volunteer Lawyers Program, said Denise and Michael instilled in their children at a very young age values of caring about others and giving back to their community.

“There are people who say their kids and their family are the most important things in their lives and there are people who live their lives as if their family and their children are the most important things in their lives. That’s the Days, Anna’s parents,” Sanchez said.

The annual awards presented by the Idaho Bar Association to lawyers who provide free, pro bono services to clients is named after O’Donnell-Day. She devoted her career to helping clients who were less fortunate.

There’s a long family history of service. Terry Day Park at the top of Protest Hill at 1225 S. Federal Way was donated to the city of Boise by Anna Day’s grandfather, Pat Day. The park, which opened in 2013, is named after Pat Day’s wife, Terry Day, who died in 2006.

Terry and Pat, who died in November 2013, lived in a house on the property for nearly 60 years.

After their parents’ deaths, Anna and Molly went to live with their aunt outside Chicago. The Chicago Tribune reported Day graduated in 2006 from Carmel Catholic High School in Mundelein, Ill., north of Chicago and that she also grew up in Kildeer, another town in Chicago’s northern suburbs. They now both reside in New York City.

Molly Day started a nonprofit organization in in Chicago in her 20s, Dunklin said. Anna Day has reported extensively in the Middle East and other regions. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, CNN, The Huffington Post and other news outlets.

“They have both turned out to be very extraordinary women,” said Dunklin, whose daughter, Kate Cole, is friends with Molly Day.

Sanchez agreed.

“It’s not any wonder that the girls have turned out to be such women of conscience and compassion and that they’re dedicating their lives to meaningful service to people in the world,” she said.

John Sowell: 208-377-6423, @IDS_Sowell