World War II veteran celebrates his 100th birthday with friends, family and congressman
A World War II veteran from Highland Park was feted by his family, friends and a suburban congressman Friday ahead of his 100th birthday.
"Any chance I get to wish someone a 100th birthday is a good day," U.S. Rep. Brad Schneider said about the guest of honor, Nate Firestone.
Firestone turns 100 on March 4. Schneider, a Deerfield Democrat, hosted the small celebration in his Lincolnshire office.
Schneider and Firestone's three daughters, two grandchildren, other relatives and friends -- including several other veterans -- sang "Happy Birthday" to the soon-to-be-centenarian and enjoyed slices of cake that featured an American flag.
Firestone called the party "terrific."
"(I like) that I'm getting positive attention," he said.
Firestone was a navigator on a B-24 bomber in Europe during World War II. He and his crew flew 27 successful missions but were shot down in 1944 and captured by German troops.
When his captors asked why he dropped bombs on their countrymen, Firestone responded by telling them he is Jewish -- something Schneider said was particularly brave, considering Nazi Germany's persecution of Jews at the time.
Firestone escaped during a relocation march and was rescued by American soldiers. He returned home in 1945.
After the war, Firestone attended Northwestern University -- also Schneider's alma mater -- and became a certified public accountant. He retired in 1990.
Daughter Marilyn Rothschild said she was excited to celebrate her dad's birthday Friday.
"He's always been my hero and I am so proud of him," said Rothschild, of Highland Park.
Schneider held a similar celebration earlier in the day for another 99-year-old veteran, Jacob Joseph, at the Rosewood Care Center in Northbrook. Joseph turns 100 on April 3.
Schneider gave both men copies of remarks entered into the Congressional Record honoring them.