Thousands flocked to the burial of a U.S. Army veteran with no friends or family Tuesday, after a funeral home posted an open invitation to the public.
Edward Pearson of Naples, Fla. passed away on August 31, at the age of 80.
The Legacy Options Funeral Home sent out an obituary inviting the public to attend his service at the Sarasota National Cemetery on Oct. 1.
“This Veteran has no immediate family all are welcome to attend,” read the obituary.
According to local newspaper the Bradenton Herald, the cemetery’s pavilion, which was designed to hold 3,200, people spilled over capacity to 4,000.
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Visitors ranged from veterans and active duty personnel to students and teachers.
“I started getting calls from all over the country and some from as far as Germany around 8 a.m.,” cemetery volunteer Tina Beeler told the Herald.
“I haven’t seen this many people since this place was dedicated. The response has been phenomenal.”
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Pearson was previously reported on by Naples Daily News, after his home of 17 years flooded in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma in 2017.
Shaking hands with U.S. President Donald Trump, who was touring the area at the time, the veteran had applied for federal assistance to cover both his flooded home, as well as the roof of his house that was also ripped off by the hurricane.
According to local news outlet FOX 13 Tampa, Pearson served in the army from 1962 to 1964 and was honourably discharged.
Legacy Options Funeral Home director Michael Hoyt also told FOX 13 that the funeral “was a little overwhelming” due to attendees, and that the service was even delayed because of traffic.
“It was like the parting of the seas. The motorcycles went down the middle and everybody pulled to the side and we came through with the hearse and the urn,” said Hoyt.
Sarasota County Commissioner Christian Ziegler shared pictures of the lineup to get in to the cemetery in a social media post.
“My lifetime streak of never having been proud, appreciative & honored to sit in traffic has ended,” wrote Ziegler.
Another funeral attendee, Kim Ngu, posted several images of the funeral to social media.
“The turn out was very overwhelming and filled with love. No soldier is ever left behind! Rest easy!” wrote Ngu.
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