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Strangers gather at funeral for Holocaust survivor with no family in Richmond Hill

Strangers gather to bury Holocaust survivor with no family
WATCH ABOVE: When a Holocaust survivor died in Toronto, one of the few people he knew worried there would be no one to bury him. So he put out a call on Facebook. As Caryn Lieberman reports, the response was overwhelming and heartwarming.

On a cold, snowy day north of the city, Rabbi Zale Newman prays and sings at the final resting place for his friend, Eddie Ford.

“This is your favourite song, we sang it together every Friday,” he said, speaking to Ford’s burial plot.

Newman was one of only a few people who got to know Ford.

He met the 85-year-old just seven months ago at Sunnybrook Hospital, while Ford battled cancer.

“We would sing together and he would tell me jokes and ask me questions,” Newman recalled. “What’s the Jewish blessing on this and what do we say on that.  Every Friday, we sang a prayer and ate special food and lit the special candles for the Sabbath.”

READ MORE: Holocaust survivor shares story with Toronto students, reacts to deadly synagogue massacre

Ford was virtually alone in the world, a child survivor of the Holocaust.

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When he died in late January, Newman feared he would be the only person at the funeral.

“It was his last request that he have a proper Jewish burial,” he said.

So he turned to Facebook to honour his friend’s final wish.

He posted, “Can you come escort a hero of the Holocaust for his final journey, at NOON TOMORROW. This is a huge PURE act of kindness. Won’t take long but please dress warmly. Thank you so much.”

When Newman arrived the next day at the cemetery, he struggled to find a parking spot.

“There’s a whole crowd. I would say almost two hundred people and I can’t see any faces, only eyes, because it’s so cold that everyone is wearing a hat, and a hood. Some people have blankets and everyone’s wearing a scarf on their face,” he said.

“I thought it must be a different funeral.”

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Strangers who showed up to support Rabbi Newman and Eddie Ford.
Strangers who showed up to support Rabbi Newman and Eddie Ford. Rafi Yablonsky
Strangers who showed up to support Rabbi Newman and Eddie Ford.
Strangers who showed up to support Rabbi Newman and Eddie Ford. Rafi Yablonsky
Strangers who showed up to support Rabbi Newman and Eddie Ford.
Strangers who showed up to support Rabbi Newman and Eddie Ford. Ronen Israelski
Strangers who showed up to support Rabbi Newman and Eddie Ford.
Strangers who showed up to support Rabbi Newman and Eddie Ford. Rafi Yablonsky
Global News

A crowd of strangers gathered to honour the life of a man they never knew.

“On that freezing cold day. People gave up three hours of their time to give a sendoff to a lonely, sweet individual and how touching and beautiful and sweet that is,” Newman said.

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Not much is known about the life of Ford.

He was Jewish and living in Budapest, Hungary when the Holocaust started.

READ MORE: Jewish people, community allies answer call to #ShowUpForShabbat

At six years old, a Christian family took him in.

“He’s left with just a few good memories and the rest from those days are very bleak and dark,” explained Rabbi Newman, who would be in for one more incredible surprise at his late friend’s funeral.

“Someone comes up [and] identifies himself as his [Ford’s] long lost brother.. and we set up two rows and we have him walk through and we comfort him in the traditional Jewish way.”

It was more than Newman could have wished for, for his late friend Ford.

“The perfect send off.”