Facebook Inspires Hundreds to Attend a Funeral For a Man They Never Met

When a Royal Marine veteran passed away recently, his clergyman made sure he received a dignified farewell.
Milton cemetery in Portsmouth, Hampshire, U.K., would have been empty for James McConnell's funeral if not for his clergyman. (Photo: Gary Allman/Creative Commons)
Feb 24, 2013· 1 MIN READ
A Bay Area native, Andri Antoniades has previously worked as a fashion industry journalist and a medical writer.

While Facebook might be best known as a means for some low-grade entertainment, as evidenced by our love of cat memes, it sometimes also proves to be a catalyst for an inspiring display of social good.

When 70-year-old James McConnell passed away last month in Britain’s Southsea, his nursing home staff reported that he had no known friends or family to attend his funeral. In fact, little was known about the man’s life before he came to the Bluebell Nursing Home, except that he had served in the Royal Marines.

Upon hearing the news, Rev. Bob Mason, who was charged with leading McConnell’s funeral, decided to enlist the help of Facebook. He posted a public plea, asking local residents to attend McConnell’s ceremony in order to provide the veteran a more dignified send-off.

According to ITV News, 200 people who had never so much as met McConnell showed up to mourn his passing.

What was supposed to have been a small, state-sponsored ceremony turned into a proper military farewell, despite the freezing temperatures; standard bearers from the Royal British Legion led a procession through the cemetery, followed by a group of flag-bearing motorcyclists. The service concluded with two buglers from the Royal Marines Band Service playing “Last Post,” the British equivalent of “Taps.”

Danny Marshall, also a former Royal Marine, was among the attendees, and he told ITV News, “It was mentioned wrongly that he did not have family. The corps family is bigger and better than most people would know about. We are all family and always will be.”

Rev. Mason’s original post, which was shared heavily among the Facebook pages of Royal Marine Corps members, included this personal appeal from the clergyman: “In this day and age it is tragic enough that anyone has to leave this world with no one to mourn their passing, but this man was family and I am sure you will agree deserves a better send off. If you can make it to the graveside for that time to pay your respects to a former brother in arms then please try to be there.”

While this isn’t the first time social media has been used to galvanize a large group of people, those who attended McConnell’s funeral stand as exceptional. They had no personal stake in the day’s event—showing up was simply the compassionate thing to do.