SARASOTA, Fla. (WFLA) – He served our country in the US Army but when a veteran passed away without any family, some worried his service and life would be forgotten.
Now strangers from all over America are stepping up to make sure Edward Pearson gets the recognition he deserves.
At Sarasota National Cemetery, the perfectly lined headstones tell countless stories of heroic men and women, many who were loved and missed.
But one new addition to this hallowed shrine was alone.
80-year-old Edward Pearson died in Naples on Aug. 31. The Legacy Options Funeral Home in Naples got a message from a social worker saying he did not have any family and had no funds for a funeral service.
Pearson served in the US Army from Feb. 1962 to Feb. 1964.
“He served his country and I know he doesn’t have any immediate family. And doing the right thing for a veteran that served our family was the right thing to do,” said Legacy Options Funeral Director Michael Hoyt.
Hoyt says McFarlane’s Naples mobile home was destroyed during Hurricane Irma. County officials worked with his insurance to make sure he was fully covered for a new home.
“I’m not sure he ever got to see that come to fruition because I think he got too sick before that happened, but the community really rallied behind him,” said Hoyt.
Hoyt says Pearson’s only wish was to be cremated and to have a simple service. So the Legacy Options Funeral Home arranged to lay him to rest at Sarasota National Cemetery with full military honors. The funeral home published an obituary and invited the public to attend.
It went viral with people all over the country passing along the word to make sure Pearson is not alone.
“I think it shows the human side of all of us and the fact that we care about other people besides just ourselves and people that have served us and afford us the freedom we have today,” said Hoyt.
As of now, cemetery officials are expecting 100 people, but it could be more – they’ve fielded calls all day.
Sarasota County Sheriff’s deputies and Sarasota Police officers plan to attend.
One person who will certainly be in attendance is Blair McFarlane with the Patriot Guard Riders.
“They at one time signed the blank check, up to and including their life to give us the freedoms they have,” said McFarlane.
Sadly he says this is nothing new. This year alone, McFarlane attend nearly two dozen funerals for service members without families.
The Sarasota National Cemetery normally holds these types of funerals on Wednesdays.
McFarlane hopes this viral campaign will lead to more awareness of just how common this is.
“Nobody wants to be left alone, nobody wants to die alone, nobody wants to not be remembered,” said McFarlane.
The funeral will be held at 12:30 p.m. on Oct. 1 at Sarasota National Cemetery.