Army veteran Edward Pearson of Naples, Florida passed away on Aug. 31 at the age of 80. More than 2,000 people attended his funeral service at the Sarasota National Cemetery in Sarasota, Florida on Oct. 1. But in this crowd of thousands, few had ever met Pearson personally.
All these people came to pay their respects after the veteran’s obituary, which noted he had no immediate family, went viral on Twitter. It was retweeted by CNN anchor, Jake Tapper, who has over 2 million followers, as well as by Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, who has 4 million followers.
In the obituary, the funeral home invited the public to attend Pearson’s funeral.
“You know what? There’s no way I’m going to let him do this alone,” William Bowman, a Purple Heart recipient and career Army veteran who attended the funeral, told the Associated Press. “I’ve never met the man. But he’s a veteran and he’s a brother of mine.”
Pearson served as a private first class in the Army from 1962 until 1964.
A Florida attorney named Rogan O’Handley attended Pearson’s funeral and tweeted out these photos:
One attendee who did know Pearson, Patty Thrasher, spoke of his humility to the AP. She got to know him when Hurricane Irma damaged the roof of his mobile home in 2017. At that time, Pearson was photographed by the local Naples Daily News after he had shaken President Trump’s hand during a visit after the hurricane.
Thrasher explained that when Pearson sought government help after Hurricane Irma, he found out that he did not own the home. Instead, he had been swindled by a criminal when he believed he purchased the home.
Thrasher and other members of the community came together to help him out, and Pearson was preparing to move to a new home when he died. According to Thrasher, he did not want his situation to attract any media attention. She says he would have been heartened by the huge turnout at his funeral.
“I think he would have just totally been in tears,” she told the AP. “He’s looking down and probably crying his heart out.”
Pearson was buried with full military honors.
“I think it shows the human side of all of us and the fact that we care about other people besides just our selves and people that have served us and afford us the freedom we have today,” Legacy Options funeral director Michael Hoyt told WFLA.