Elliott Harvey “Red” Firestone died peacefully on Wednesday, November 13th, at the Veterans Memorial Lodge at Broadmead, Victoria, British Columbia. He was 97 years old.
Harvey was born in Montreal, Quebec, the second child of Max and Dora Firestone. Max Firestone had immigrated to Canada in 1910 from Germany and had been interned during World War I on St. Helen’s Island, Montreal as a German National. Dora had also arrived in Canada from Manchester, England in 1910. They were married in 1920. The family included elder sister Rachel (Rae), Jack, and Roslyn.
Harvey attended Guy Drummond Public School and Strathcona Academy High School in Outremont. He was very active in boxing, baseball, and hockey during his youth. Leaving school early to support his family Harvey worked for Canadian National Telegraph first delivering telegrams and then as Office Manager. With World War II underway Harvey sought to join the air force hoping to become a pilot but as his father Max had been interned during World War I it took some extra time for Harvey to be accepted – for Wireless Air Gunner training – in January 1942. Progressing through training he survived his first plane crash in Debert, Nova Scotia. Soon he was off to England for more radio courses and something new – airborne radar operator training. Promoted to Flight Sergeant Harvey joined Flying Officer Gord Biddle, 1st pilot; Flying Officer George Deeth, 2nd pilot; Flight Lieutenant Maurice Neil, Navigator; and fellow WAGs Pilot Officer Ken Graham and Warrant Officer George Grandy at the Wellington Operational Training Unit at Silloth, Scotland where they quickly jelled as a crew becoming an exceptional team and great friends. They earned several awards and soon were on their way to anti-submarine operations with 407 (Demon) Squadron of Coastal Command flying operations first over the Bay of Biscay off France, then supporting the D-Day landing, and moving north to Scotland for patrols over the North Sea off the coast of Norway.
After an engine fire while on patrol over the North Sea the crew made a successful emergency landing at Haugland, Os, Norway several kilometers south of Bergen. The six members of the crew stuck together and soon made contact with friendly Norwegians and the MilOrg (Norwegian resistance) that then hid, fed, and took care of them for just over 2 weeks sending them back to Scotland where they arrived on October 12th. Most of the crew including Harvey returned to Canada before the end of the year.
With World War II winding down Harvey chose to leave the RCAF in February 1944 and found work with relatives in Toronto where he soon met Dorothy McCauley who soon had him visiting the family farm. Harvey and Dorothy married December 6th1945 and opened a clothing store in Bolton, Ontario. Harvey also received a letter from one of the Norwegians, Kjell Harmens, who before long came to Ontario to visit several members of the crew and soon a life-long friendship was established between Harvey and Kjell.
Rick (William Richard) was born in 1948. Gary was born in 1952 not long after Harvey had moved his family to Montreal to pursue employment opportunities. He joined Suitmaker, a company manufacturing women’s clothing and soon rose to the position of general manager. After Suitmaker closed its doors in the late 1960’s Harvey worked for Rubinstein Brothers an equipment supplier to the garment industry in Montreal until his .
Following World War II the Royal Air Forces Escaping Society was established in England by grateful airmen who had been downed in occupied territory and been able to escape or evade capture by the enemy and succeeded to return to Britain. These airmen had been assisted by people of the occupied countries and they decided that it was their turn to help those who had helped them during the war. Soon a Canadian branch of the RAFES was established and Harvey quickly became a mainstay. In 1966 he and Maurice Neil returned to Norway to re-visit the scene of their great adventure and to bring together as many of their ‘helpers’ as possible to formally thank them bringing greetings from the RAFES as well as the Canadian government. Harvey was one of the spearheads of the societies Centennial Project in 1967 that brought 14 helpers from across Europe for a formal visit to Canada. Harvey was awarded the Centennial medal for his efforts.
Harvey continued to pursue sports training to keep himself in good physical condition and also coached minor hockey. Dorothy and Harvey enjoyed an active social life with friends from Rosedale United Church, members of the RAFES, work and people they met playing badminton. They also enjoyed cross-country skiing. Over the years they also travelled extensively from a road trip with the boys across Route 66 to Los Angeles returning through Texas and Louisiana and a road trip through Great Britain (with a weekend in Paris). There was a RAFES tour to Europe and over the years Harvey and Dorothy made several more visits to Norway to visit helpers who had now become friends and they also hosted several visits in Canada.
Following their retirement Harvey and Dorothy, with Rick and Gary married and having moved far away, returned to Bolton, Ontario to be near Dorothy’s brother and sisters and her many nieces and nephews. They enjoyed spending winters in Arizona. After Dorothy’s death in 2004 Harvey moved to The Kensington in Victoria, BC close to where Rick and his family had settled. That fall Harvey travelled to Norway in September with Rick and Gary and family to put a memorial stone in place at the landing site at Haugland as a permanent thank you for those who had helped the crew in 1944. One of the best days of this part of his life was a rainy Sunday and a visit to “Little Canada”, an extremely small hunting cabin on a lake in remote Norway, where the crew had been hidden in 1944 for about a week.
Harvey continued to enjoy life in the pleasant climate of Victoria before Alzheimer’s disease slowly took its toll.
Harvey’s surviving family includes his brother Jack in Boca Raton, Florida; son Rick and his wife Susan in Victoria BC and their daughter Sarah of Kamloops, son Matthew, and daughter Katharine with her husband David Fink parents of Harvey’s great-grandsons, Henri and Aric Fink-Firestone; as well as son Gary and his wife Jane of Salem, Oregon and their son Elliot.
Intentions are to hold a celebration of life in the Bolton area in the spring.
Should you wish to make a donation in Harvey’s name we would suggest the Broadmead Care Society, (https://www.broadmeadcare.com/donate-or-volunteer/donate) directed to the Veterans’ Health Centre; or to the charity of your choice.
Condolences for the family may be offered at www.EganFuneralHome.com