Statesville community organizes memorial for veteran with no family or friends

Community organizes funeral for veteran with no family

STATESVILLE, N.C. (WBTV) - It is not often Nicholson Funeral Home receives someone with no family and no one to call. But that was the case for Leslie Barnes.

“She had prepaid for the cremation,” Funeral Director Alana Henderson says. “So, we had that process done, but there were going to be no services.”

Barnes died at 60 years old while in an assisted living facility. She had previously coordinated plans for her death that the funeral home describes as the “bare minimum.”

Then, they recently found out she was actually Master Sergeant Leslie Barnes, with 26 years of her life dedicated to the military.

“We were sad,” Nicholson Funeral Home President Bill Brater said. “We think that she gave everything. She gave up a family, never had a husband, children, anything. Gave it all to the Air Force.”

“It did kind of tug at my heartstrings a little bit,” Henderson added. “That she did just have no one in her life to come and celebrate what she had given.”

So, they are stepping in.

“She earned it,” Brater said. “And it shouldn’t be just brushed to the side.”

And, they are getting help from those around them.

“My heart, you know, it just kind of tugged on my heartstrings,” Cheryl Matthews at Johnson Greenhouses said.

Community volunteers like the florist, a bagpiper, and the Patriot Guard Riders are putting their time and effort into the making of this memorial.

“It’s what we are here to do,” Matthews said. “It’s what we were put on this earth to do and it’s our purpose to do that.”

None of them knew Barnes, and none of them will even see a photo of the woman they are honoring because no one has one to share. But they want to show respect to the life and legacy the veteran leaves behind.

“Showing what real sacrifice means,” Brater said. “And that needs to be recognized with dignity.”

“Show her the honor and the love and respect that all our veterans deserve,” Henderson added.

Thursday’s service will include a full military detail from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base.

The service will be at Nicholson Funeral Home on East Front Street at 11 a.m. It will then move to the Salisbury National Cemetery at 1 p.m.

Organizers are asking people in the community to come to the service or line the streets outside with American flags to show their respect.

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