Local organizations step in after there’s no money to bury veteran

Investigations

ALCOA, Tenn. (WATE) – In October, a grief-stricken woman from Alcoa called our newsroom saying her boyfriend of 20 years had died and that there was no money to have his body cremated or to pay for a funeral. Her boyfriend was a veteran.

Two months after Alan Richeson died, the U.S. Army veteran is making his final trip — but he is not making it alone.

Patriot Guard riders lined the funeral procession and an Honor Guard carried Former Specialist Richeson’s urn in tribute to the honorably discharged veteran.

Honor Guard carried urn in tribute

It has taken a long time for the 69-year-old former painter to reach the East Tennessee Veterans cemetery.

Six months ago, Kim Fox and Alan Richeson moved into a tiny studio apartment in Alcoa. He had been ill for months.

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Down on their luck, they were homeless living out of their car when they moved from Cleveland. A local veteran’s agency found them a low-income apartment. Alan had volunteered and joined the Army 49 years ago. He served for three years.

“He was always good to everybody,” said Fox. “Of course, we argued a little bit, but why would I be with him for 20 years if I didn’t love him.”

Despite their long-term relationship, Fox and Richeson never married and that created an issue after he had passed away; as she was not his next of kin.

When Richeson died on October 12, Fox could not afford to have his body cremated. His closest relative could not be reached. The remains stayed at Blount Memorial hospital until she could get the money.

‘Nobody to stand up for him’

“He had nobody to, nobody to stand up for him, (except) Kim. She loved him with all of her heart,” said Willie Franklin of Lost Vets.

When Fox got in touch with us, 6 On Your Side made some calls. Fox didn’t want Richeson buried in a pauper’s grave. In November, the funds were made available to take care of his remains.

A group that wants to remain anonymous stepped up and paid for the cremation.

“I want to thank them from the bottom of my heart. They don’t know how much I appreciate this,” Fox said.

It’s taken another month for permission from Richeson’s closest relative to have him buried — with his fellow veterans. Still, Fox could not claim him because they were not married.

Anonymous donors pay burial expenses

With permission granted from his relative, Alan Richeson received full honors at the Veterans cemetery chapel, a free service to those honorably discharged.

Fox said she knew this is where Alan would want to be — with his fellow veterans.

Surrounded by her small family, Fox accepted the American flag from a grateful nation — witnesses were members of the Patriot Guard and other groups.

“No veteran should take his last ride alone that’s why the Patriot Guard and Combat Veterans Associations do this,” said Alfred Holland of Patriot Guard Riders.

‘No veteran should take his last ride alone’

“This has to be the saddest moment of my life,” Fox said. “But I thank everybody who has come together and helped me out.”

Under government regulations, only next of kin can authorize final funeral preparations. Since Fox and Richeson never tied the knot, she could not claim the body or approve any decisions.

Blount Memorial and the Veterans Cemetery sent certified letters to a family member of Richeson’s who approved of the cremation and burial site. There were several people in between who made it all possible especially the anonymous donation of $950.

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