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More than 1,000 Attend Funeral for Unclaimed Veteran / pashabo

Billy Aldridge had no next of kin when he died, but that didn't stop more than 1,000 people from gathering to honor his life.

"Anyone with information, please call Legacy Cremation & Funeral Services." Those were the closing words of Billy Aldridge's obituary.

Aldridge, an 80-year-old veteran, died in an Indiana nursing home in late October. There were no known friends or family, so the funeral arrangements fell to Bruce Buchanan, owner of Flanner and Buchanan Funeral Centers, and his staff, who had prior experience honoring those who are virtually alone at the end of life.

"In a situation like this we do everything we can to give them some kind of dignified service," he said. "It’s fairly rare for someone to die who has no one... it doesn’t happen that often, which I think is part of why the community response was so strong."

As arrangements were made, from placing an ad in the local newspaper and securing a minister for the funeral, Buchanan and his staff saw compassion growing for the man who had seemingly died without a friend. Word of the funeral spread, carried along by members of the press as well as networks of veterans. And on the day of the funeral, an overwhelming number of mourners showed up to honor the life of Billy Aldridge.

"I didn’t think there would be a problem getting a spot in the church parking lot, which can hold around 500 cars, but when I got off the freeway it was backed up two-deep. Some people drove hours to attend," said Buchanan.

In the days since the funeral, Buchanan has felt moved by the way so many people came together in the name of support, community and positivity. "I think what’s stayed with me is how this man’s life, where no one knew him when he died, became a life-affirming event for event for everyone who heard the story," he said. "In a time when we hear a lot of catastrophic news around the world, this story was extra special to people. We even got an inquiry from a reporter in London.. after the Paris attacks, they wanted to cover something positive."

Visit the Guest Book for Billy Aldridge to leave a condolence message and see how others are honoring his life.