It was a farewell to a man who could easily have been forgotten. Jerry Jerome Jackson is a homeless veteran who died alone, frozen, in a makeshift shack tucked into a St. Paul park, just over a mile from Our Saviour's Lutheran Church.
"Some of us knew Jerry. We were saddened and shocked to hear of his death," said Pastor Brian Scoles. "Truth be told, his death was tragic. We don't have to pretend otherwise. Dying homeless in a park during a bitterly cold winter is sad and a tragic way to die."
The Pioneer Press wrote several articles about Jackson's death last month, and his story prompted dozens of people to step up to help. A local funeral home donated the funeral services free of charge. His church supplied the music and a beautiful memorial. The military provided full honors at Fort Snelling National Cemetery in Minneapolis, complete with a 21-gun salute from the United States Marine Corps Honor Guard.
"This is overwhelming to me," said Jerry's brother, Don Jackson. "It's overwhelming."
It took a while, but investigators found Don in Missouri. Don explained that his 58-year old brother suffered from mental health issues, including schizophrenia that drove him to the streets. A veteran himself, Don was so moved to be at his brother's services. He received the flag from Jerry's casket as the lone family member in attendance.
For those who knew Jerry Jackson, these are the images they want to remember and cherish -- not the images of a man suffering from mental illness and dying alone in the elements, homeless.
"It's beautiful man," said Shawn Martinez, a friend of Jerry's. "It just goes to show there are good-hearted people. It meant something."