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Final salute: Community gathers to mourn Winona veteran who died alone

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More than 100 people attended a graveside service for someone they had never met.

Army veteran Richard Rhodes died Dec. 16, 2014, at his Winona apartment, his obituary says. The man, who had no known close friends or family, spent the last days of his life alone, KTTC reports. But on Monday, he was laid to rest with full military honors and members of the community mourning him.

“He lived alone and he died quietly,” Brittany Horton, director of Hoff Funeral Home, told the Winona Daily News. “It’s important we honor him ... bury him with dignity and respect.”

Hoff Funeral Home took control of his body, but didn't want him to be interred unremembered. Horton discovered he was a veteran who served in Germany from 1963 to 1965, so she contacted local veterans organizations to arrange for a guard of honor, the Winona Daily News reports.

Rhodes' story quickly spread through the military community, many attending to give him a final salute.

"This was just an honor to provide military rights for Mr. Rhodes," Cmdr. Sam Sasser of American Legion Post 9 in Winona told KTTC. "Apparently he lived a quiet life and I think this is just a very fitting and proper way to give him the military rights that he deserves."

A grave and headstone were donated, and fellow veterans served as his pallbearers.

"People don't want to be forgotten and I think based on the people here today I don't think he will be forgotten," Horton told KSTP.

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Rhodes' former coworker attended the service, saying he was a "great guy" and adding he kept to himself outside of work, according to the Winona Daily News.

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