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Strangers rally to attend funeral for veteran who died alone

January 18, 2019
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Sgt. Jose Burgos pauses for a moment at the casket of Vietnam veteran Peter Turnpu as several hundreds gather for a funeral Friday, Jan. 18, 2019 in Wrightstown, N.J. (Joe Lamberti/Camden Courier-Post via AP)

NORTH HANOVER TOWNSHIP, N.J. (AP) — Although an Army veteran had no family with him as he died last month, hundreds of strangers came together Friday for his funeral with military honors thanks to the work of a volunteer.

Peter Turnpu, 77, died at his New Jersey home from natural causes.

He had no known relatives and few friends, according to officials. So a police officer asked LeRoy Wooster, owner of LeRoy Wooster Funeral Home in Atco, to help put together a service for Turnpu.

“It was the right thing to do,” Wooster said. “I didn’t want him to be buried alone.”

More than 1,000 paid their respects at the funeral in North Hanover Township on Friday afternoon. An honor guard from Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst was also present.

Mourners lined up and saluted as pallbearers carried the flag-draped casket.

Wooster said it took weeks of searching, but he was able to learn that Turnpu was a veteran of the Vietnam War who received an honorable discharge — making him eligible for a burial with full military honors at the Brigadier General William C. Doyle Veterans Memorial Cemetery.

Wooster donated a casket, transportation and services as a funeral director.

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This story has been corrected to show that the funeral was in North Hanover Township, not Atco.

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