Canadian Who Sheltered Americans During Iran Hostage Crisis Dies

Posted January 6th, 2013 at 7:30 am (UTC-5)
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(corrects year in graph 5 to 1979)

John Sheardown, a former Canadian diplomat who sheltered fugitive American Embassy staffers in his Tehran home during the Iran hostage crisis more than three decades ago, has died. He was 88 years old.

Sheardown had been treated for Alzheimer's disease and other ailments before his death December 30 in Ottawa.

The rescue of the Americans has become known as the “Canadian caper” and is depicted in Ben Affleck's Oscar-contender film Argo. However, Sheardown is not portrayed in the film.

Affleck has said Sheardown's role in the hostage crisis was omitted in the film due to time constraints and plot developments.

Sheardown and his wife, Zena, housed four of the six fugitive diplomats in their 20-room home in Tehran. The other two Americans were taken in by Canadian Ambassador Ken Taylor. The group had escaped from the U.S. Embassy compound when Iranian radicals seized the embassy on November 4, 1979, in retaliation for U.S. support for the deposed shah, who was ousted early in the year. The hostage-takers held 52 other Americans for 444 days.

Sheardown received a telephone call from one of the escaped Americans about a week after the embassy takeover, asking for help and Sheardown agreed.

His wife said “it was just not in John's nature to refuse help to anyone.”

In a story posted in October on the Slate magazine website, one of the rescued American diplomats, Mark Lijek, said without Sheardown's “enthusiastic welcome we might have tried to survive on our own a few more days. We would have failed.”

Sheardown was made a Member of the Order of Canada for his role in the rescue.