Dozens attend the funeral of veteran Prokes

MONTEVALLO – On Wednesday, Oct. 23, dozens of people showed up at the Alabama National Cemetery to attend the funeral of Edward L. Prokes Jr., a man they did not know.

Prokes was a local veteran who died on Oct. 9 without family to claim his remains. He served in the Air Force from 1950-1954. Although there’s no record of his duties in the military, the Korean War was under way at the time.

Several veteran organizations, military personnel and members of the community showed up in support of Prokes.

“It’s really a blessing to see so many people come out for someone they didn’t know personally,” said American Legion Post 555 Commander Kenneth Paschal. “But as veterans, we all know each other and the sacrifices we made. We’re all here to make sure a veteran was not laid to rest alone.”

The Patriot Guard escorted Prokes’s body from Good Shepherd Funeral Home to his final resting place at the national cemetery. Airmen from Maxwell Airforce Base conducted military honors. Post 555 Chaplain Tom McMahon officiated the funeral.

The events of Oct. 23 were set in motion by Columbiana resident Donna Thompson. On Oct. 14, she contacted Post 555 Commander Kenneth Paschal to ask for help to bury Prokes who was found dead in his Columbiana home on Oct. 9. Thompson was contacted when he died because she was listed as the emergency contact on his apartment lease.

Thompson said Prokes, 87, was a solitary man who lived alone. She met him about 25 years ago when he needed help using a computer.

“We just stayed in touch after that,” Thompson said. “Me, my husband and our two kids were the closest thing he had to family. We would always have him over for the holidays because we didn’t want him to be alone.”

Thompson said Prokes was married once but never had children. Because Prokes did not have a next of kin, Thompson and her family were presented with an American flag to honor his service.

Paschal thanked the following people and organizations who directly assisted with funeral arrangements and expenses: Good Shepherd Funeral Home, Shelby Baptist Association, Heavenly Smile, Inc., Lone Warriors, Cahaba Valley Elks Lodge No 1738, American Legion Matthew Blount Post 555, Mrs. Donna Thompson, Post 555 Chaplain Tom McMahon, Maxwell Air Force Base Funeral Honors Team, Alabama National Cemetery and Patriot Guard Riders of Alabama.