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Strangers give proper funeral to veteran without next of kin

Spooner (WQOW) – At Paul Shockley, Jr.’s funeral on Friday there were no photos, no memorabilia, and no known family members. His eyeglasses, which sat on top of the urn holding his cremated remains, were the only evidence of a life lived as a member of the U.S. Air Force.

“We felt that it was very important that there should be people there to honor him and his service to the United States, and say goodbye to him in a very respectful, honorary way,” said Tami Inman-Stoker, with the Barron County Veteran Service Office.

When the service office was notified that Shockley had no next of kin, they took it upon themselves to invite everyone and anyone to celebrate a life given to this country.

“I’m honored that I even get to be a part of this,” said Elizabeth Welty, a funeral director and daughter of an Air Force veteran. “I am astounded by the turnout. I thought that maybe there would be five people, and there was at least inside, I got a count of 73. That’s not counting the people who were outside.”

The small chapel at the Northern Wisconsin Veterans Memorial Cemetery was overflowing with love and support for a man they never met, but feel tied to nonetheless.

“When this soldier made an oath to this country, he came into a larger family: the sister and brotherhood of military personnel,” said Gay Hennessey, a veteran who offered her services as a minister for the funeral.

Many of those in attendance used Shockley’s story and memory as a reminder to hold their own loved ones tight, and be thankful to those who keep the country safe.

“We brought three generations with us. Watching them all stand at attention like they were still 19-years-old, it was very humbling and very moving,” said Katie Fortin, a funeral attendee and wife of an Air Force veteran.

Now Paul Shockley, Jr. can rest in peace, with the thoughts and prayers of hundreds of people who would be proud to call him a friend.

He passed away Nov. 4 in Rice Lake at the age of 81.

Mary Pautsch

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