Naples veteran without living family to receive community farewell at funeral

A local war hero is set to be laid to rest in one of our state’s national cemeteries. But his family is no longer living. So the community he served is making sure he gets the funeral he earned.

Naples veteran Ed Pearson, 80, will be buried at Sarasota National Cemetery Tuesday, where a dozen unclaimed veterans have already been laid to rest. When Pearson is laid to rest, community members will be present to give him a deserved farewell.

“He was just a beautiful man,” Patricia Thrasher said. “We were all very touched by him.”

Thrasher took a picture of Pearson not long before he died of natural causes on August 31. She told us she had been working with Pearson to get his home fixed from damages left by Hurricane Irma. Thrasher said she has a special place in her heart for those who serve.

“My son was in the army. My husband was in the army,” Thrasher said. “I had a great grandfather who served in WWI before he was even a U.S. citizen.”

After she heard about Pearson’s death, she called the funeral home.

“I said, ‘Well, I have a photo of Ed,’” Thrasher said. “Because it’s sad. I would like people to see the face of the veteran.”

Thrasher knew he didn’t have any immediate family and made it her mission to get the word out. Pearson’s obituary invited the public to be there when he is laid to rest. Now, it’s gaining nationwide attention.

“I didn’t think this was going to go so viral,” Thrasher said. “I just wanted some people to be there to show him respect. And now I’m looking forward to seeing all the people who are going to his service.”

Pearson served in the U.S. Army from 1962 to 1964 before he was honorably discharged. Pearson was also a longtime community member in Collier County. He worked many years at Publix grocery store and Lowe’s Home Improvement locations in Naples area.

Many former co-workers, the local patriot guard riders and other veteran groups say they will attend Pearson’s funeral service. It’s scheduled for 12:30 p.m. Tuesday at Sarasota National Cemetery.

“At least he passed knowing our community cared about him,” Thrasher said.

Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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