Florida veteran whose funeral was attended by 4,000 as he 'had no immediate family' has two living sons he abandoned as teenagers
Edward K. Pearson Sr.'s obituary, which claimed he had no immediate family, went viral after it was shared by a reporter and thousands turned up to honor him at his funeral
A Florida newspaper has claimed that an army veteran whose funeral on Tuesday, October 1, in Sarasota, Florida, was attended by more than 4,000 people because they didn't want him to be buried alone did, in fact, have two sons.
A source told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune that Edward K. Pearson Sr. had two sons and that he had "walked out on them" when they were teenagers.
Years later, the veteran's sons Edward Pearson Jr., a 55-year-old milk deliveryman in Pensacola, and his younger brother, James, were told he was dead.
“I was kind of surprised he was still alive all this time and I never knew about it,” Edward Pearson Jr. said. “I’m hurt because all these years I could have talked to him and found out why he did what he did to us and why we were lied to.”
According to his family, they did not know Pearson had passed until September 30, a day before his funeral service. By that time, the funeral home had already announced Pearson had no immediate family and therefore invited the public to attend the service.
Edward Pearson Jr.'s ex-wife Liz said it was too late before the family could make arrangements to travel to Sarasota, adding they would have attended if they had known sooner.
The army veteran, from Naples, Florida, died on August 31.
"This veteran has no immediate family and all are welcome to attend," the funeral director wrote in the service announcement before the obituary went viral after it was shared by a reporter.
For many staying nearby the Sarasota National Cemetery, it was impossible to think they wouldn't attend the ceremony, especially since the region has thousands of retirees and veterans.
"You know what? There's no way I'm going to let him do this alone," said 62-year-old Willie Bowman, a Purple Heart recipient and career Army veteran. "I've never met the man. But he's a veteran and he's a brother of mine."
Pearson had moved to Florida almost 25 years ago, where he worked at a grocery store and a hardware store.
Patty Thrasher, a customer service representative for the Collier County Tax Collector's office, got to know Pearson after Hurricane Irma in 2017.
The storm had reportedly damaged the roof of Pearson's mobile home, which was sold to him by a swindler pretending to own the place. When Pearson sought government aid for repairs, Thrasher discovered he didn't actually own the home at all.
However, Thrasher managed to get the community together at the time to help Pearson fix the roof, pay a past electric bill, as well as secure a title for the home.