Canadian who sheltered U.S. diplomats dies at 88

John Sheardown, a former Canadian diplomat, who sheltered fugitive American Embassy staffers in his Tehran home during the Iran hostage crisis in 1979, has died. He was 88 years old.

Sheardown had been treated for Alzheimer’s disease and other ailments before his death Dec. 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 Americans in their 20-room home in Tehran. The group had escaped from the American Embassy after militant Iranian radicals seized the U.S. Embassy on Nov. 4, 1979, holding 52 American hostages for 444 days in retaliation for U.S. support for the recently deposed shah. The two other Americans were taken in by Canadian Ambassador Ken Taylor.

Sheardown received a telephone call from one of the 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 Web site, 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.

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