Viral Obit Leads to Packed Funeral for World War II Veteran
Hundreds of people showed up for the funeral of a British military vet on Monday — and almost none of those in attendance actually knew him.
The large turnout was a result of an obituary gone viral. According to the Metro UK, funeral director Roland Whitehead printed a notice in the local paper in Lytham St. Annes, England asking military personnel to pay their respects to Harold Jellicoe Percival, a former Royal Air Force Bomber Command crewman. “Harold died peacefully in Alistre Lodge Nursing Home on 25th October, 2013, aged 99 years. A single man, he has no close family who can attend his funeral. Served in the RAF Bomber Command as ground crew during World War Two," the obituary stated. "Any service personnel who can attend his funeral service would be appreciated.” The obituary was shared on social media by members of the military and eventually reached the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund (RAFBF), an organization dedicated to supporting all serving and former members of the Royal Air Force, as well as their partners and surviving children.
“Yesterday we feared Harold Percival’s funeral would go unattended and unnoticed. Today, we witnessed a truly astonishing response to the story of this Bomber Command veteran who died recently in care home," RAFBF's regional director for Scotland and Northern England, Bob Kemp, who also attended the service, wrote in a post on the organization's website on Monday. "Mourners comprising both retired and serving personal from the RAF, army, navy as well as air cadets and members of University Air Squadron and civilians came to pay their respects.”
David Kessler, grief expert, author of “The Needs of The Dying,” and founder of grief.com, notes that there is a primal archetype in humans that grief must be witnessed. “There is something that strikes us as wrong when someone dies alone," he tells Yahoo Shine.
Kessler adds that while it’s not common for people to attend a funeral of someone they don’t know, the attention the service received likely helped encourage people to come out. “It rubs against our grain that someone lived their life and somehow became disconnected, and we want to correct that disconnection,” says Kessler “It’s our way of making a wrong right.”
According to Yahoo UK, Percival’s nephew, Andrew Collyer-Worsell attended the service and was wowed by the outpouring of condolences. “We were expecting a few people, a few local veterans, but suddenly it snowballed. It’s the sort of send-off you would want to give any loved one.”