‘No one should go to the grave unnoticed’

Of all of the compelling episodes of the acclaimed West Wing series, none was more poignant than the episode in which a presidential aide finds a coat he once owned in the hands of a homeless veteran who died. He pulled his White House strings to get the man a decent burial over the objection of his boss.

Richard Rhodes, 73, wasn’t homeless. But the Army veteran died alone in his Winona apartment last month. He had no family. He left no will. If not for a funeral home director, no one would have noticed his passing.

When he was buried yesterday in Winona, about 100 people, many of whom had never met him, showed up to accompany him to his grave, the Winona Daily News reports.

But no one should go to the grave unnoticed, Hoff funeral director Brittany Horton believes. She arranged for a simple graveside service, contacted area veterans organizations to arrange for a guard of honor, and saw to it the story of a man apparently forgotten by everyone would not go unremembered.

“He lived alone and died quietly,” Iglesias said. “He was not a number, but a man. Not a stranger, but a son.

“His family is lost to us, as he was lost to them,” he said, “but he was one of us.”

And for at least one man in the crowd, Richard Rhodes was a friend — lost, and too late found.

“He went by Dusty,” said Tom Hundt, a former co-worker at Watkins years ago.

“He was fun to be with — he like joking around,” Hundt remembered. But outside of work, he kept to himself.

“He had a girlfriend at one time, but it didn’t work out. Other than that, he had nobody.” Hundt said he lost touch with his friend after Rhodes left Watkins.

“It was a total shock,” he said, to learn of Dusty’s death. “He was a great guy … just awesome.”

Three volleys were fired, Taps sounded, and the flag folded and presented to Horton, since no family was present.

  • Moffitt

    Nice story on Rhodes, and a funeral director who went an extra step to recognize him. Personally, I’m not worried about the number of people at my funeral. I’ll be beyond caring, and the good folks at Ft. Snelling will take care of me. I might even get a recorded “Taps” played over my grave…by a hologram bugler
    PS: The Millenials are wondering why you keep mentioning some old show they have never seen.

    • jon

      As a millennial (though admittedly one of the older ones) I can assure you I’m aware of the west wing (though trying to make it through the whole series now on Netflix, watch it sporadically as a child.)

  • Barb

    I am so glad to hear of someone going beyond their job description to do the right thing for an individual who will never even know of it. I believe Brittany Horton will honor the flag that she was presented in memory of Richard Rhodes. Thank you.