South Philadelphia native and World War II veteran Edward "Babe" Heffron, best known for the book and television miniseries "Band of Brothers," which portrayed him, died yesterday at the age of 90.
During World War II, Heffron was a member of the 2nd Battalion of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division of the United States Army called Easy Company, often referred to as one of the most revered companies in the history of the U.S. Army.
Heffron fought in several major battles with Easy Company, including the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium, for which he was awarded the Bronze Star.
After the war, Heffron visited the families of two fallen soldiers in his company after the three made a pact promising that whoever survived would visit the loved ones of those who died.
"When he came home from the war he made a point to go down to Alabama and visit the family," said Jake Powers, a historian who runs a tour company that traces the progress of Easy Company in World War II. "He said it was the hardest thing he ever had to do in his life and he didn't know how it was going to be received but they accepted him just as if he was their own son."
Heffron continued to live and work in South Philadelphia, impacting the lives of many who crossed his path including City Councilman James Kenney.
"I've known him for a long time and he was a terrific person; certainly a hero," Kenney said. "He was very wise and he kept all of his senses til the end. I mean his brain was as sharp and witty as a thirty year-old. He was one of the funniest, wittiest guys I've ever known."
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Powers, who knew Heffron for 30 years, agrees.
"He was the king of the one-liners," Powers said. "He should've had a comedy show."
Heffron and other Easy Company members' exploits were made famous by the 1992 Stephen Ambrose book Band of Brothers, and were later portrayed in a popular HBO miniseries by the same name. Heffron made cameo appearances and was portrayed in the miniseries by Scottish actor Robin Laing. Heffron was also referred to frequently in Ambrose's international best-selling book.
In 2007, Heffron penned his own national best-seller Brothers in Battle, Best of Friends: Two WWII Paratroopers from the Original Band of Brothers Tell Their Story with fellow unit member and Philly native William "Wild Bill" Guarnere as well as journalist Robyn Post.
Guarnere told NBC10 he knew Heffron was from South Philly the moment he saw him.
"I knew he was from South Philly from the way he walked," Guarnere said. "Bing, bang, boom! That's the way he walked!"
Guarnere also shared Heffron's sense of humor.
"You could put a microphone in front of him and Bill together and it would be nonstop radio gold," Powers said. "The two of them are passionate and sincere about their contributions to the war and most importantly the men that they left behind. But they also brighten up the room with just their comments and presence. They never took themselves too seriously because they didn't think they were heroes."
Heffron was one of few surviving members of the famed unit. Easy Company commander Richard “Dick” Winters died in 2011, after suffering through a several-year battle with Parkinson's Disease.
Information regarding Heffron's official cause of death or any impending memorial services have yet to be reported.
"Hopefully he went peacefully in his sleep," Kenney said. "That's what he deserved."