By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
We were made to be in community, to be part of something greater than ourselves, to love and be loved. We were made to be in families, and families were never designed to be so dysfunctional that people become distressed at the thought of being in the same room with those whose DNA is a match; but sadly sometimes that happens.
I don’t know why Ed Pearson had absolutely no family anywhere because all accounts say, “He was a sweet man.” However, as sad as his or any soldier’s passing is, Mr. Ed managed to touch the lives of those around him to the point that Florida “threw him a funeral” fitting of someone who served our country, and that of a well-loved man.
Ed lived in Naples, and in 2017 had the chance to shake the hand of Donald Trump. Then Hurricane Irma struck, and his mobile home was destroyed in the storm. Never losing his kindness, he endeared the hearts of the people who were employed by the agency that was working to get him a new home. He passed before that could happen, and then the actual positive power of social media kicked in. One woman posted on Facebook about his passing, and the post went viral.
Legacy Options, a funeral home with locations throughout the South, put on their website that Ed’s funeral would be open, basically saying, “Come and be his family.” That is the theme that brought in busloads of people, a full 4,000 attending a service for a serviceman they had never met. “He’s part of the veterans [sic] family. That’s why I’m here,” said David Marsters, who drove more than two hours from Lady Lake, Florida to Sarasota National Cemetery, where the funeral was held. “You never leave anybody behind.”
In a month when politics are being particularly putrid, Gwen Graham, the Democratic candidate for governor in Florida, tweeted the following: “Mr. Edward K. Pearson served our country. He has no family to attend his funeral. We can be his family.” Could those sentiments be driven to improve the optics of the campaign? It’s possible, but the point is, people who never met the man but wanted to honor what he had done, what he stood for, and more importantly, affirm his worth as a human being stopped what they were doing, got in their car or on the bus, made the trip, and celebrated the life of a solitary soldier.
As a person who winces at the thought of being associated on any level, no matter how small, with what is deemed “media” these days, the fact that several local Florida broadcast affiliates showed up for the funeral and live-streamed it so people could see it at home caused me to smile. And, it didn’t stop there. CBS had it on their national news as well. At the end of the day, literally millions of people had been briefly introduced to Ed Pearson.
I also think of how different the social climate is these days when it comes to vets. Fifty years ago, even without the ability of media to connect us so immediately and intimately, I seriously doubt that an old man who had served his country in the early ‘60s would have been given such honor; but oh, am I glad Ed Pearson has been laid to rest with the respect a soldier deserves. Be well in your new home, dear man. No hurricane will harm you there.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner