Respect: Mass. Prep School Honors Homeless Veterans With Proper Funerals

Nick Kangadis | May 30, 2019
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Our veterans are some of the most overlooked people in the U.S. Unfortunately, some of them die alone without any final recognition for the sacrifice they made to keep the rest of us in the life we’re accustomed to.

One school in Massachusetts is doing their part to change that by teaming up with a local funeral home to recognize the sacrifice made by soldiers who might not have any family or friends to remember them after their passing, as well as homeless veterans.

Catholic Memorial School, along with the assistance of Lawler and Crosby Funeral Home, provide a memorial service complete with pallbearers, a casket, hearse and “transportation needed for the burial at the veterans’ cemetery in Winchendon,” according to an America Magazine article written by Assistant Director of Communications at Catholic Memorial, Michael Kotsopoulos.

The pallbearers for each funeral are a different student group within the school who are chosen to pay the ultimate respect to the recently deceased by carrying them with respect into remembrance.

According to Kotsopoulos:

In the days leading up to the New Year, a homeless Army veteran named Timothy Fowl passed away at the Brockton VA Hospital—miles away from the Grove Street shelter in Worcester where records show he used to reside.

He deserved better, really. The man sacrificed six years of his life to serve his nation as a medical specialist in the 1980s. He worked as a welder in the years that followed before falling on hard times. Years later his trail went cold.

At the time of his death, Mr. Fowl left behind no known friends or family. He received no heartfelt goodbyes. Still, Mr. Fowl’s remains, given to Lawler and Crosby Funeral Home, needed a proper burial.

And Fowl did receive a “proper burial.”

“Here at C.M., we’re a family,” school president Peter Folan said. “A proud family. We’re a community that welcomes people in and accepts them for where they are. We ask them to join us on our journey toward being more, doing more and caring for others. Timothy Fowl, welcome to our family.”

Catholic Memorial has a habit of recognizing pretty much everyone. The school’s administrators, like Vice Principal Tom Ryan, have a very particular philosophy that more people should aspire to practicing in their own lives.

“If you want to let a student know that they’re loved, call them by their name,” Ryan said, according to Kotsopoulos. “After all, someone loved them enough to give them one.”

Using someone’s name when speaking to them is also a sign of respect, while also being a way to earn respect among your peers. It’s a small detail, but an important one.

Kotsopoulos ended his article on the extremely worthwhile practice of Catholic Memorial with an excellent summary:

During these funeral services in the chapel, our students learn what it means to welcome someone on the margins into their family. They give shelter, visit the sick and bury the dead. They learn how to empathize with the suffering of others and to see a stranger as their brother.

And it starts with learning his name.

It certainly does. Without your name, who are you?

Here's a short video of one of the memorials CM has held: