Brett Blume (@brettblumekmox)
August 7, 2017 4:00 AM
ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – He died without a home, but one local Vietnam veteran is going to get a hero’s send-off nonetheless.
John Beard, 67, had served a three-year stint in Vietnam with the U.S. Air Force, but he’d been homeless for at least the past couple of years.
When he recently passed away from cancer, AMVETS started a fundraiser to underwrite Beard’s funeral.
That’s when Calvin and Chris Whitaker, the husband-and-wife owners of Michel Funeral Home (5930 Southwest Ave.) got wind of the situation, and offered to host Beard’s funeral, free-of-charge.
AMVETS offered to give the Whitakers the money they’d collected to that point to help cover expenses.
“I didn’t even pay attention to how much they had collected,” funeral home co-owner Calvin Whitaker told KMOX News. “I gave it back to them and told them to give it to the ‘Veterans In Need’ program.”
Whitaker even had a chance to meet with Beard prior to his death to discuss funeral arrangements.
“I told John, ‘I could not be here doing what I do if it wasn’t for guys like you doing what you did to make our country safe,’” he said.
The public has the chance to get involved in sending John Beard to his final resting place with the love and respect he earned by serving his country.
Everyone’s invited to come out and line the route the funeral procession will take around mid-morning Tuesday.
“We have the Patriot Guard riders, I know we have AMVET and American Legion riders, and we have some other motorcycle riders from other clubs in our area who are going to meet here,” Whitaker said, estimating that some 200 riders could be in the final procession.
It will leave Whitaker Funeral Home at Southwest and Hampton avenues beginning at 9:45 a.m. Tuesday.
The procession will head south on Hampton on a route that will also include Morganford, Union, Reavis Barracks and finally Telegraph.
There, Vietnam vet John Beard will be buried with full military honors, despite the fact he didn’t have a cent to his name at the time of his death.
“He served and protected our country,” Calvin Whitaker said. “Me and my wife did not serve our country, so we thought this was a small way we could give back.”
For more information, contact Michel Funeral Home at (314) 645-4241.