Willie Davis of Johnstown, Pennsylvania served the United States Army beginning in 1971. In 1976, he transferred to the United States Navy.
When he found out he had terminal stage-4 cancer, he started to plan his own funeral.
The United States military would have paid for his funeral but he would have just gotten a plaque. Davis, 66, wants to be buried next to his parents in Culpeper, Virginia.
So, he decided to sell all of his belongings at a yard sale to raise money for the funeral he wanted.
David Dunkleberger and Ed Sheets, both 27, stopped by to check it out.
They probably spent about $10 between the both of them. They purchased a carton of glass bottles, some old newspapers from the summer of 1977 when the town had catastrophic rains, and a railroad stock certificate.
They also stopped to chitchat with Davis. That’s when they learned that he was raising money for a funeral.
“I said, ‘Whose funeral?’ And he said, ‘Mine,’” Dunkleberger told New York Times. “I can only imagine my face when he said that to me.”
“To me it was such a heartbreaking story,” Sheets said. “And the fact that he didn’t want to be a burden to anybody else — I just found that incredible.”
The guys decided to set up a fund-raising account for Davis and his funeral.
The story was covered on a Monday and they raised more than $62,000 by the following Wednesday.
“It’s amazing,” Sheets told NBC News. “We went to the yard sale and we didn’t have any intentions. We thought we were just buying a couple items and it turned into something so much more incredible.”
“I was trying to do it all on my own,” he said. “Then two wonderful people came through and decided they were going to help me.”
So, he’s going to leave any leftover money in a fund to help other veterans in need.
“It’s not going to cost that much,” he said. “There’s going to be money left over, so I want people to understand that it’s not going to be spent on personal things for me. It’s going to help veterans that are in similar situations. What we have to do is figure out how to do this. I want it to be continuous. We have the money to pay for one, two, three funerals, but why stop there.”
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“I’m dying,” he said. “So I was seeking something that would give me more purpose.”
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