Homeless veteran dies with no family—honored by group of young men who never knew him

November 23, 2017 4:40 pm Last Updated: November 25, 2017 6:28 pm

When John T. Fitzmaurice passed away at 68, he had next to nothing: no home, no friends, and no family, but he wasn’t forgotten. As a veteran of the U.S. Army, he put his life on the line for his country and served with honor. So, when students at Catholic Memorial High School in West Roxbury, Massachusetts, learned that he would be buried with nobody in attendance, they decided it was their duty to step in.

Working with the Lazarus Ministry and Robert J. Lawler & Crosby Funeral Home, students volunteered to carry his coffin, sing hymns, and read from Scripture at his funeral on November 15. The school’s president, Peter Folan, stood in for Fitzmaurice’s next-of-kin and was presented the flag that draped over his coffin.

“For our students and the Catholic Memorial community to be his family today was a privilege,” Folan told the Boston Herald. “Our students know that by the grace of God, we have the life that we have.”

Students from the Catholic high school didn’t know John, but wanted to give him a dignified send-off and show their respects.

(CBS Boston/Screenshot)

The students at Catholic Memorial knew very little about Fitzmaurice. In fact, they did not even know his full name, referring to him as simply “John” throughout the whole service. Still, they had tremendous respect for the man who risked his life to protect our country.

“We have a lot of veterans in my own family so I know the sacrifice he made for the country and I know the service he committed in the years he committed to serving our country,” senior class president Will Padden told CBS Boston.

John was buried in Massachusetts Veterans Memorial Cemetery, but was first honored with a full mass at Catholic Memorial’s chapel.

(CBS Boston/Screenshot)

Fitzmaurice was buried with full military honors. Reverend Chris Palladino delivered a eulogy at a full mass in Catholic Memorial’s chapel before an Army hearse took the flag-covered casket away.

“By our gathering together, we honor not only a veteran but we honor a member of our community,” Palladino’s eulogy began.

After mass, a group of high school seniors delivered Fitzmaurice’s coffin to the waiting hearse while a trumpeter played Taps. These high school students learned a valuable lesson that day about the caring for others and the importance of friends and family.

“For me to be there as part of John’s family was pretty special because I know I would want someone to be there for them,” Padden, who is himself considering joining the military, told the Boston Herald. “John is certainly now part of our family, and will be forever.”