Strangers gathered together at East Thompson Cemetery Friday morning to honor a local veteran who they had never met.
"We are all here and we are all here for one reason. That is to honor our veterans and Lionel in particular," said Khrystne Keane, who drove to Thompson from Watertown. "I do not know Lionel. I had never heard of him until yesterday."
Lionel Lussier, 91, died in January. The Killingly native served in the United States Army during the Korean War. At the time of his death, Lussier had no living family members left in Connecticut. With one nephew living in Georgia and some family members in Hawaii, the veteran community put out a call for people to attend a funeral service for him, nearly six months after his death.
Photos: Strangers Attend Funeral For Veteran With No Local Family Members
"I think today this is a real tribute to show him how much we still love him," said Bruce Hay with the Danielson Veterans Coffeehouse.
Hay was one of the only people in attendance who knew Lussier personally. Members of the Danielson Veterans Coffeehouse used to visit the nursing home where Lussier lived.
"He just told how he loved being in the service," said Hay. "He loved this country."
Sonja Challinor attended the funeral from the neighboring town of Putnam. She said that while she did not know Lussier, it was important for her to show respect. Her husband is a veteran. She stayed up the night before and made a wreath to lay at Lussier's headstone.
"It touches my heart in a way that I don’t think anything will ever touch my heart again," said Challinor. "The world has already lost so much. The only thing we can do at this point is to stand together and remember that no one is in this alone.”
Members of VFW Post Post 1523 Putnam were also in attendance, honoring Lussier. According to Junior Vice Commander of the post, Hans Lowell, Lussier was a longtime member. Lowell said that he never met Lussier, but said that it is his charge to make sure the entire post is taken care of.
“Hopefully he is overlooking all of this and knows that all of his brothers and sisters were there for him," said Lowell.