Hundreds attend Elgin funeral for Illinois veteran after no next of kin found

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Thursday, January 30, 2020
Hundreds attend Elgin funeral for Illinois veteran John James Murphy after officials unable to find his family
Roughly 500 mourners showed up Wednesday to honor an Illinois veteran who most of them had never met.

ELGIN, Ill. (WLS) -- Roughly 500 mourners showed up Wednesday to honor an Illinois veteran who most of them had never met.

A line snaked around an Elgin funeral home for John James Murphy, a veteran who died last December at the age of 71.

Most of the mourners learned about Murphy through articles shared on social media.

Murphy lived the last few years of his life at the River View rehab home in Elgin, where they say he talked of his service in the Air Force in Vietnam proudly. Officials at the rehab home said Murphy was awarded numerous medals, and is believed to have had a falling out with his family years ago.

"I had to honor his wishes. He said he didn't want to talk about it. I was OK with that," said Pawn Thammarath, from River View.

None of Murphy's relatives have come forward after his death, according to police.

"It's heartwarming to see this," Army veteran Donald Sleeman said of the turnout at Symonds-Madison Funeral Home Wednesday.

Diane Carter read about Murphy's death in a local blog and brought a friend to his funeral.

"He was a veteran. He served our country and we need to show our support," Carter said.

Funeral home owner Dan Symonds, a veteran who served six tours, was determined to make sure Murphy was honored and remembered for his service.

"The outcry of love and support have been overwhelming," Symonds said.

Many of the those in attendance responded to social media.

A Daily Herald story about the so-called unclaimed veteran's funeral was posted on Facebook and shared 455 times in just the last day. A post by the funeral home was shared more than 1,500 times.

"I cleared my schedule for the day. I didn't know if anyone would be here, and this is just amazing," said Jennifer Duff of Oswego.

Firefighters and other first responders saluted Murphy along the route during the long funeral procession.

"We're proud that we can do something for someone who served this country," said Elgin Police Chief Ana Lalley.

The owners of the funeral home said they plan to keep the flag that was awarded to Murphy's family as a veteran until any of his relatives come forward to claim it.