The Fort Wayne Community Provides a Funeral Service for a Homeless Veteran
By David Wilson – Regional Program Director of Veteran Services
On March 5, 2016, John Zdzislaw Pawlowski died alone. He was a homeless Vietnam-era veteran that slipped through the cracks until he was taken to the hospital for medical assistance.
Mr. Pawlowski was born May 17, 1947, in Wildflecken, Germany, and immigrated to the US with his family at a young age. The family faced many problems when they first immigrated, which necessitated the children be placed in the foster care system. This is likely the reason his brother located in southern Indiana and sister in Michigan (the only discovered members of his family) declined to be involved at all.
Since he died alone and no one claimed his body, local Legion Riders became involved in the process. They collaborated with the Klaehn, Fahl, Melton Funeral Home to arrange a formal military funeral and burial in the Lindenwood Cemetery on March 31, 2016. Due to our association with the Legion Riders in the area, Safe Haven was chosen to receive the flag at the burial ceremony on behalf of Mr. Pawlowksi's family.
The event was open to the public, and the turnout was amazing. Even though Mr. Pawlowski had no blood relatives, he had a large family on that day. It seems he received more honor, comraderie, and respect at his death than he did during the last few years of his life.
This man was not a direct client of ours; but the mission of The Richard Lugar Safe Haven is to provide services, shelter, and kindness for homeless veterans to prevent this kind of loneliness. Successes at Safe Haven are due to the entire team at Volunteers of America Indiana, and I am blessed to work with them.
This event was covered by local media in Fort Wayne. Read the article from the Journal Gazette, or watch coverage from Channel 15 and Channel 21.