Over 2,000 people showed up at the funeral of an 80-year-old veteran who had no kin, the Associated Press reports.
Edward Pearson, a resident of Naples, died on August 31. Following his death, his obituary went viral after the funeral director noted that the veteran had no immediate family and that all were welcome to attend. The announcement was quickly picked by various veterans's forums and social media platforms, prompting thousands of people to show up at the Sarasota National Cemetery for the ceremony.
"You know what? There's no way I'm going to let him do this alone," Willie Bowman, a Purple Heart recipient and Army veteran, told the outlet. "I've never met the man. But he's a veteran and he's a brother of mine."
Pearson, a Pennsylvania native, reportedly moved to Florida 25 years ago and briefly worked at a grocery store before moving on to a hardware store. In the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, Patty Thrasher, a customer service representative for the Collier County Tax Collector’s office, got to know him and learned that the storm had damaged his home, according to the Associated Press.
When Thrasher tried to get government assistance to repair the home, she purportedly learned that Pearson did not, in fact, own the home at all. She later learned that a swindler had allegedly scammed the veteran and worked with other community members to help Pearson secure a title and fix his roof.
At the time of Pearson's death, he was about to move into a new home. Thrasher said if the 80-year-old were still alive, he would have been overwhelmed by the ceremony's turnout.
"I think he would have just totally been in tears," she said. "He’s looking down and probably crying his heart out."