Husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather. Born Jan. 8, 1919, in Pictou, N.S. Died March 8, 2011, in Halifax of renal failure, aged 92.
Harry Freeman affectionately dubbed his birthplace “home of the brave and land of the free” and “God’s country.”
One of seven sons of Max and Hattie, Harry was known as “golden boy” by his family because he could do no wrong in the eyes of his mother. He showed an aptitude for breaking the rules, playing hooky for his entire Grade 1 year by hiding behind a book shop, smoking cigarettes and reading anything he could find.
Like many of his generation, Harry’s mettle was forged during the Depression. Instead of finishing high school, he supported his family by stevedoring. Harry was never lazy.
When the Second World War erupted, Harry became a gunner with the North Nova Scotia Highlanders. He was demoted to private for insubordination and spent more than a few hours in the brig. On June 6, 1944, he was part of the troops storming the beaches of Normandy. Actually, he was in the ship’s mess trying to find a sandwich when the general transport boat left. While the entire company was wading through deep water to shore, Harry talked his way onto a PT boat.
A few weeks later, he was shot in the back while rescuing a wounded comrade ahead of the front line. Harry’s words to his buddy: “I’m awfully sorry, Freddie, but I’ll need to keep the second wound dressing for myself.” That was the kind of guy he was – humble, proud and selfless.
Harry used his victory grant of $5,000 to buy a grocery store in Halifax. He married Leona Pliskow in 1947, had one son and celebrated 63 wedding anniversaries. He considered his family his greatest accomplishment.
Harry believed that work builds character. He sold the grocery store in 1960 and started his own mortgage company. In 1966, he suffered a heart attack. Told by doctors that work would kill him, Harry took five years off, travelling, playing bridge, golfing and collecting antiques. But he loved working too much, so in 1971, he started Dover Mortgage Corp. After selling Dover, he continued to work with the company for 30 more years, celebrating his 90th birthday with colleagues.
His greatest joy was spending time with his three grandchildren. He enriched their lives with stories of Pictou, the Depression and the war, and instilled in them a love of books. He took great pride in the achievements of his son, Larry, his daughter-in-law, Myra, former Lieutenant-Governor of Nova Scotia, and his grandchildren, celebrating every success as if it were his own.
Harry said he didn’t want anyone crying at his funeral. “I’ve led a great life. My family is better than all the riches in the world. The world doesn’t owe me anything.” It’s a lucky fellow who feels that way at the end of his days.
By Daniel Freeman, Jonathan Freeman and Debra Freeman, Harry’s grandchildren.