YORKTOWN HEIGHTS, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – A World War II veteran received a hero’s funeral today in Westchester County.
A social media push to get the story out led hundreds of people to turn out to honor him, reports CBS2’s Scott Rapoport.
The 97-year-old Graham passed away quietly and without fanfare at a nursing home in Cortland Manor. His wife of more than 60 years, whom he adored, passed away two years ago.
The services held Friday for Marine Pfc. Bob Graham were held at the Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton church in Shrub Oak, West Chester County.
Most of those in attendance at his funeral had never met Graham and never heard of him until recently. The services included a police motorcade, a pipe and drum corps escorting the hearse and more htan 200 military veterans, police and firefighters from all over New York.
“I was afraid the funeral was not going to be well attended,” said 27-year-old Beth Regan, who organized the public call to attend Graham’s funeral. “I thought there would only be a handful of people there.”
The turnout for the funeral left Regan in shock.
“Oh my God, I’m just speechless,” she said Friday. “I really am.”
Regan met Graham while volunteering at the nursing home where he lived.They became good friends. She helped throw his 95th birthday party, and now she’s made it her social media mission to make sure that Graham has a proper, well attended funeral.
Word got out in posts on sites like Reddit where it has about 1,000 comments and more than 56,000 upvotes.
“He was so special, so humble,” said Regan. “And of all the people, he deserves the biggest sendoff. I want him to have hundreds of people attend.”
Indeed she did. In a touching moment, a marine presented Reagan with the flag from Graham’s casket.
“I’m just overwhelmed with emotion and support and the outpouring of love is incredible,” she said.
She says Graham was part of the Marine Raiders, an elite fighting unit in the corps serving in places like Guadalcanal during WWII. He earned a Silver Star for Valor in Combat.
But she particularly remembers the kindness and love he shared with his wife, Rosie, before she died 2017.
“He brushed her hair every morning,” said Regan . “He’d held a mirror in front of her tell her every day how beautiful she was. When she was unable to hold utensils, every day Bob would feed her first before he ate himself.”