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