An Army veteran who died with no immediate family will be laid to rest Tuesday as hundreds of onlookers pay their respects after his obituary went viral.
Edward K. Pearson, of Naples, Florida, died at age 80 on Aug. 31 in a local hospice facility.
The facility contacted Legacy Options Funeral and Cremation Services to help reach out to family members, but the home was unable to find anyone related to Pearson, Jeffrey Nieves, a family services counselor at Legacy, tells PEOPLE.
“We had had him in our care for a month and had made every due diligence call to contact family and nobody came forward,” he says.
On Sunday, Pearson’s obituary was published in the Naples Daily News, with a short line at the bottom noting that all were welcome to attend his funeral, as he had no immediate family.
The obituary quickly went viral, and Legacy was soon flooded with calls from people who said they’d like to attend Pearson’s funeral on Tuesday afternoon at Sarasota National Cemetery.
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“I’ve heard anywhere from like, 200 to 1,000 people [will be there],” Nieves says.
Among those attending are members of the Sarasota Sheriff’s Department, who tweeted that “our guys & girls in green will be there,” and the Sarasota Police Department, which confirmed on Facebook that it would have officers in attendance during the ceremony.
Pearson will be laid to rest with full military honors after a neighbor helped track down his DD 214 forms, which confirmed his service.
He served in the Army from February 1962 to 1964, when he was honorably discharged, according to CNN.
“My grandfather has been in funeral service for over 50 years, and he started this business back in 2013, and he’s pretty active with the veterans’ administration down here, and trying to do a lot for homeless veterans, ‘cause there’s a real problem with it down here,” says Nieves, noting that Legacy offers free funeral services to homeless veterans.
“[My grandfather’s] whole thing was, it’s really great that we were able to do this, and everyone came together, but it would’ve been better if everyone could’ve come together while he was still alive,” says Nieves.