On August 31, 2019, Edward Pearson, a United States Army veteran, died in Naples, Florida at the age of 80. It was understood that he had no immediate family, and community members were concerned that he was going to be buried alone.
Funeral director, Michael Hoyt, published the following sentence in a local newspaper: This veteran has no immediate family, and all are welcome to attend. When news of the open service hit social media, the response was overwhelming. Quickly, Pearson’s obituary went viral, and both U.S. Senator Marco Rubio and CNN host Jake Tapper tweeted about the story.
More Than 2,000 Head to Sarasota FL to Pay Their Respects
The funeral was scheduled for October 1, 2019 at 12:30 pm in an open-air pavilion at the Sarasota National Cemetery in Sarasota, Florida, and hundreds of people in the region said that they were planning to attend. In Naples, a city with many retirees and veterans, residents were ready to make the trip to Sarasota to honor Pearson’s life. Fire & Rice founder, Chef Paul Schmidgall, also a military veteran, and his colleague, Colleen Connolly, made the trip to show their respects. “No veteran should be laid to rest alone.”
U.S. Army veteran and Purple Heart recipient, William Bowman, told the Associated Press, “You know what? There’s no way I’m going to let him do this alone. I’ve never met the man. But he’s a veteran and he’s a brother of mine.”
Remarkably, more than 2,000 people showed up to attend the funeral, most of who had never met Pearson. Patty Thrasher, Pearson’s friend, commented to the AP, “I think he would have just totally been in tears. He’s looking down and probably crying his heart out.”
From 1962-1964, Pearson served in the U.S. Army and was honorably discharged. Public records say that he later became an engineer and worked at Marriott Hotel Services Inc. Upon his death, no family members claimed his body, but his good friend took care of the funeral arrangements.