He was a son of New Hampshire. He was a member of the Greatest Generation. He helped save the world. He was my Uncle Eddie.
He was born in Littleton, moved to Claremont, and graduated from Stevens High School in 1938. From there he entered Harvard College, “at age sixteen” my mother would always add. My mother believed there was one perfect person in the world, her brother Eddie Firestone.
After graduating from Harvard in 1942, he went to the Pacific as a Marine fighter pilot. My friends had family members in the War, but they were on ships, or on the ground. My uncle flew 75 missions over such places as the Solomon Islands and Guadalcanal. I knew I wasn’t supposed to brag, but as a kid I sure did brag about my uncle the pilot. I made a model airplane, a Corsair, which is what he flew.
When he came back, he went to Florida as a flight instructor, and then I really had something to brag about. “My uncle taught Ted Williams how to fly.” Yes – Ted Williams! And, when the War was over, and Ted returned to the Red Sox, my uncle took his father, my baseball-loving grandfather, to meet him and watch him play. I don’t recall that my grandfather bragged about that; he was not one to single out one of his children over another, but he was proud beyond belief. (The only bragging I ever heard from my grandfather, if you can call it that, was that “none of my children ever went to jail.”)
Over the next sixty years Uncle Eddie created a successful business in Boston, raised a family, saw his grandchildren (two sets of twins) grow to adulthood, and endured losses. He never gave my mother any reason to change her mind about his being perfect, with one possible exception. She loved to tell people that her brother’s jewelry store, Firestone and Parson, was “in the Ritz Carlton Hotel.” She was disappointed when he moved across the street, leaving her to say “His store is on Newbury Street, you know.”
He had many good qualities, including excellent judgment and the ability to make decisions quickly. One day, after my grandmother died, he came to Claremont to see his father, who by then had lost most of his eyesight. “Dad,” he said, “I think you need a new place to live.” By the end of that day, my uncle had bought the land, chosen the plans and hired the builder. Later that year, my grandfather moved into a picturebook house off Broad Street, a gift from his son. From there he could walk to the Pleasant Sweet Shop, for coffee and conversation, as he did for several years.
Uncle Eddie died on July 19, facing the end of life as he faced life itself – with strength, with courage, and with dignity. He knew his time had come, and he told me he was ready to go. The problem is that we were not ready for him to leave. As this article shows, I haven’t stopped bragging about him. Maybe my mother was right.