News from Ottawa that John Sheardown dies has left mourners remembering a man who risked his life to shelter fugitive American diplomats in Tehran during the Iran revolution in 1979.
Sheardown, 88, was a former Canadian diplomat who was serving as First Secretary at the Canadian Embassy during the 1979 Iran hostage crisis. His efforts to protect Americans who escaped their besieged embassy were seen as heroic, and though he wasn’t portrayed directly in the movie, his role was depicted in Ben Affleck’s Oscar-favored Argo, CNN noted.
As John Sheardown dies, many are remembering him for his unwavering support in the face of possible death. From The Associated Press:
Almost a week after militant Iranian radicals seized the U.S. Embassy in Tehran on November 4, 1979, taking 52 Americans hostage for 444 days in retaliation for U.S. support for the recently deposed shah, the Canadian diplomat received a call from one of the six Americans who had managed to evade capture. American consular officer Robert Anders was calling his friend Sheardown for help.
“‘What took you so long? ‘” was Sheardown’s reply, said his wife Zena.
After that phone call, the Sheardowns agreed without hesitation to shelter four of the six Americans in secrecy in their 20-room house in Tehran. Canadian ambassador, Ken Taylor, housed the other two Americans.
Zena Sheardown told The Associated Press that it would have been selfish for the couple not to take in the Americans, as there were few other places to hid in Tehran and “it was just not in John’s nature to refuse help to anyone.”
Sheardown protected them for 79 days in Tehran, keeping a lively atmosphere despite the dangers outside.
“We have a lot of fond memories. We spent American Thanksgiving together, New Year’s Eve, together. Every night we would all sit around for dinner together. There was a lot of humor and laughter. It was a nice time to have to spend together,” Zena Sheardown said. “We tried to be protective, but we also went out of our way to make them feel as if they weren’t imposing on us.”
As John Sheardown dies, his memory lives on in other ways. Though he was not named in the movie Argo — which Ben Affleck has apologized for, citing time constraints in the film — his actions are the central point of the movie. And just before his death, the Canadian city of Windsor, Ontario, declared “John Sheardown Day.”