About 150 attend funeral in Elgin for another 'unclaimed veteran'

  • Military members salute the casket of "unclaimed veteran" Ronald "Ron" George Olson of Elgin on Wednesday at Symonds-Madison Funeral Home in Elgin. Olson, 83, died on Feb. 6.

      Military members salute the casket of "unclaimed veteran" Ronald "Ron" George Olson of Elgin on Wednesday at Symonds-Madison Funeral Home in Elgin. Olson, 83, died on Feb. 6. Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • Harvest Christian Academy wrestling coach Shawn Ayers, left, brought seven members of his team to attend Wednesday's funeral for Ronald "Ron" George Olson of Elgin, who served from 1959 to 1961 as an Army combat engineer.

      Harvest Christian Academy wrestling coach Shawn Ayers, left, brought seven members of his team to attend Wednesday's funeral for Ronald "Ron" George Olson of Elgin, who served from 1959 to 1961 as an Army combat engineer. Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • "Unclaimed veteran" Ronald "Ron" George Olson of Elgin, who died Feb. 6, had a daughter and son-in-law who died before him.

    "Unclaimed veteran" Ronald "Ron" George Olson of Elgin, who died Feb. 6, had a daughter and son-in-law who died before him. Courtesy of Symonds-Madison/Sylvia Wall

  • Pallbearers carry the casket of Ronald "Ron" George Olson of Elgin to the hearse at Symonds-Madison Funeral Home in Elgin on Wednesday. Olson served from 1959 to 1961 as an Army combat engineer,

      Pallbearers carry the casket of Ronald "Ron" George Olson of Elgin to the hearse at Symonds-Madison Funeral Home in Elgin on Wednesday. Olson served from 1959 to 1961 as an Army combat engineer, Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • A mourner takes a knee at the funeral for Ronald "Ron" George Olson of Elgin on Wednesday at Symonds-Madison Funeral Home in Elgin.

      A mourner takes a knee at the funeral for Ronald "Ron" George Olson of Elgin on Wednesday at Symonds-Madison Funeral Home in Elgin. Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • About 150 people showed up Wednesday at Symonds-Madison Funeral Home in Elgin, which held its second "unclaimed veteran" funeral this year, this time for Ronald "Ron" George Olson of Elgin.

      About 150 people showed up Wednesday at Symonds-Madison Funeral Home in Elgin, which held its second "unclaimed veteran" funeral this year, this time for Ronald "Ron" George Olson of Elgin. Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • Tammy Newsome of Lake in the Hills speaks as the Rev. Tim Perry looks on during the funeral Wednesday for Ronald "Ron" George Olson of Elgin at Symonds-Madison Funeral Home in Elgin. Newsome met Olson about 15 years ago at the Redwood Inn bar in Elgin and remained friends with him throughout the years. "He was a perfect gentleman, very witty and just a really fun guy," she said. "He called me his adopted daughter."

      Tammy Newsome of Lake in the Hills speaks as the Rev. Tim Perry looks on during the funeral Wednesday for Ronald "Ron" George Olson of Elgin at Symonds-Madison Funeral Home in Elgin. Newsome met Olson about 15 years ago at the Redwood Inn bar in Elgin and remained friends with him throughout the years. "He was a perfect gentleman, very witty and just a really fun guy," she said. "He called me his adopted daughter." Rick West | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 3/4/2020 7:40 PM

About 150 people responded Wednesday to the call to honor an "unclaimed veteran" in Elgin, the second such funeral held by Symonds-Madison Funeral Home in the last five weeks.

"He doesn't have family," funeral home owner Dan Symonds said when greeting those paying respects to Ronald "Ron" George Olson of Elgin, who died Feb. 6 at age 83. "We're his family now."

 

Olson served from 1959 to 1961 as an Army combat engineer with Company C, 34th Engineering Battalion. His only daughter and his son-in-law died before him.

Friend Tammy Newsome of Lake in the Hills said she met Olson about 15 years ago at Eaton's Redwood Inn in Elgin, where he was a regular. "He was a perfect gentleman, very witty and just a really fun guy," she said.

Shawn Ayers, wrestling coach at Harvest Christian Academy, brought seven of his wrestlers to the funeral.

"With me being a veteran, I wanted them to understand what we do for each other and I want them to understand the community behind a fallen soldier," he said. "When you have nobody else, there are other people out there to step up for you."

"And it gives the kids a chance to give back to the people who have given so much for them," said Ayers, who served in the Army from 2001 to 2015.

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Olson was remembered in his obituary for his cooking skills and love of football, especially the Chicago Bears. He was a talented pool player who loved to dance with the ladies to the tune of Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. He had suffered from Parkinson's disease for 12 years.

Unclaimed veterans are those who died without surviving relatives, or whose relatives couldn't be contacted. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs provides some reimbursement for funeral homes if veterans have been honorably discharged.

Symonds and his wife, Joy, held their first such funeral Jan. 29 for Elgin veteran John James Murphy. It was attended by about 600 people after the news spread via social media.

Since then, the Symondses have launched Operation LOVE, which stands for Love Our Veterans Elgin. Its mission is to create a community of people who want to honor unclaimed veterans, volunteer to help Elgin-area veterans in need, and take part in events, service opportunities and fundraisers done by veterans service organizations.

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