Crowds gather to say goodbye to Indianapolis veteran, who had no records of family

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LAWRENCE, Ind. (Nov. 17, 2015) – A standing room only crowd said goodbye to a veteran Tuesday morning after no family members stepped forward to make funeral arrangements for him.

Billy C. Aldridge, 80, died at a local nursing facility in Indianapolis last month. The nursing home had no records of any family for Aldridge, a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, and asked Legacy Cremation & Funeral Services in Lawrence to help make arrangements.

Veterans groups, Private Label Caskets, Memorial Park Cemetery and Indy Metropolitan Military Honor Guard also stepped up to give Aldridge a dignified sendoff.

Legacy Cremation & Funeral Services planned a small ceremony, but word got out, and it quickly turned into a drastically larger memorial service.

“This was just unbelievably wonderful,” said Tim Elson, a Vietnam Veteran, “That the community would come together and remember a fellow veteran, not knowing him, not knowing anything about him.”

Military records showed Aldridge spent time in Japan. He would later be awarded a good conduct medal and be honorably discharged.  He moved to Indianapolis to care for his sick mother.

Organizers said they’ve never seen a community step up like ours did.

“We just had a tremendous turnout, from veterans service organizations, active duty military, from every branch, as well as just members of the community who wanted to make sure this veteran was recognized,” said Eddie Beagles, Vice President of Funeral Operations, with Legacy Cremation & Funeral Services, “I couldn’t be more proud today to be a Hoosier, just to see the average neighbor that's here to recognize this gentleman. It just shows that Hoosier hospitality is alive and well."

The service was at Lawrence United Methodist Church, 5200 Shadeland Ave. and had been moved to that venue due to the overwhelming response of those who expressed interest in attending. Brig. Gen. J. Stewart Goodwin, executive director of Indiana War Memorials, delivered the eulogy. More than 1,000 people attended.