Hundreds packed an East Northport church Friday morning to honor the memory of a man they did not know.
Saverio DeLaurentis, 85, a Korean War veteran, didn’t have any nearby family members, and Father Raj Savarimuthu, the priest at St. Anthony of Padua Roman Catholic Church presiding over the funeral, said he feared only a few people would attend.
“It’s so beautiful,” Savari muthu said. “It’s overwhelming. I thought it would be three people, but the whole church was full.”
A few days ago, officials at Brueggemann Funeral Home in East Northport and at St. Anthony’s began spreading the word, said funeral home co-owner Doug Brueggemann, and it caught fire on social media.
Friday morning, nearly 400 people — including firefighters, Boy Scouts and fellow veterans — showed up at the church to pay their respects.
“They put it on Facebook, and this thing just went viral,” Brueggemann said. “He’s probably looking down, totally flabbergasted that all these people were at his funeral.”
With hundreds of voices joining in to sing hymns during the service, what could have been a tragic moment was filled with joy and honor, said Loretta Hamann, a member of the parish’s Ministry of Consolation.
“It started out as such a sad thing,” Hamann said. “This person, this man, was going to be buried by himself. And it turned out to be this event of great magnitude that we never anticipated. It’s so heartwarming.”
At least one family member did attend the service, but she declined to comment.
DeLaurentis lived in Florida at the time of his death but had arranged years prior to have a Catholic service at the church that the East Northport native had attended most of his life, Brueggemann said. According to a 1953 article in the Northport Journal, DeLaurentis served aboard the USS Oriskany when the aircraft carrier was operating off the coast of Korea during the Korean War.
DeLaurentis received a full military send-off, with a color guard and bagpipes. Forty motorcyclists escorted the procession to Calverton National Cemetery.
“Once we heard it was a veteran, nothing else mattered,” said Bruce Blanco, a member of the American Legion Riders of Hicksville. “There is goodness in people. It’s just nice to see a community come together.”
Karen Breen, a Northport resident and lifelong member of the St. Anthony parish, said she helped get the word out about the service because she said she couldn’t bear the thought of a veteran having a funeral without anyone in attendance.
“It’s sad enough if it’s an ordinary citizen,” she said. “But when it’s a veteran who would’ve laid down their life for us, we can spare an hour for him.”With Ellen Yan