Although Private First Class Stanley C. Stoltz appeared to have died alone, he was not buried alone. The Omaha World-Herald reported that more than 400 people attended the 73-year-old Vietnam veteran’s funeral at the Omaha National Cemetery yesterday, despite the day’s chilly weather.
The World-Herald published a funeral notice to encourage the public to “honor [a] Vietnam veteran with no known family,” as Stoltz’ wife of 10 years, Pamela Muhleka, passed away in 1984. However, no one expected the notice to receive as much attention as it did or to be as successful as it was.
Hey Omaha. Do the right thing. 🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸 pic.twitter.com/bQCfQmomJK
— Jennifer Mendelsohn 🇺🇸 (@CleverTitleTK) November 24, 2018
Among those who saw the funeral notice was Laurie Olsberg Shields, one of Stoltz’ neighbors who knew him from childhood. She contacted former classmates about attending the funeral and lamented that the outpouring of support and kind wishes came after Stoltz’ death, not before.
“It’s too bad it didn’t happen sooner when he was living that people reached out to him, it sounds like he could have used a friend,” Shields said.
More than 400 people attended the event, in 25 degree weather. World-Herald reporter Chris Peters attended the event and live-tweeted it.
Taps at the funeral of Vietnam veteran Stanley Stoltz. He was interred at Omaha National Cemetery in front of a crowd of at least 400, mostly strangers.
His brother & hospice care workers attended, but his flag will remain here at the cemetery to be flown on Memorial Day. pic.twitter.com/2Nyxk7mp91
— Chris Peters (@_ChrisPeters) November 27, 2018
— Emily Nohr (@emnohr) November 27, 2018
Although Stoltz did end up having at least one family member attend — his brother — other veterans may not be so lucky, which is why the work of funeral attendee Mary Rosenthal struck me. According to the World-Herald, Rosenthal uses social media every year to find people to adopt veterans’ grave sites.
“It’s just something I did because I thought it should be done,” she said. “If somebody can put flowers on somebody who doesn’t have anybody to do that, it’s a cool project.”
In response to the turnout for Stoltz’ funeral, the World-Herald‘s Dan Golden created a Twitter thread in which he suggested ways in which people can “be a friend to a veteran”:
1/ The turnout at Stan Stoltz's funeral was amazing.
But, as a friend told @_ChrisPeters, “It’s too bad it didn’t happen sooner when he was living. … It sounds like he could have used a friend.”https://t.co/LaxyUynL2E
Want to be a friend to a veteran? A few places to start:
— Dan Golden (@_DanGolden) November 27, 2018
That so many people were willing to attend a stranger’s funeral, just to honor him after his death and thank him for his service, serves as an inspiration to us all and a reminder that the holiday season is a wonderful time to volunteer and help make just one person’s day better.
The views expressed here are those of the author and do not represent those of any other individual or entity. Follow Sarah on Twitter: @sarahmquinlan.