LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The final wishes of a World War II veteran who outlived his family and died alone in Florida but wanted to be buried in Kentucky next to his mother were honored over the weekend.
His last wishes were to be buried next to his mother Thelma Anderson Taylor in Louisville with a blanket she made for him as well as the cremated remains of his three dogs, WFTS reported.
Volunteers from the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association, a nonprofit group that ensures veterans receive a proper burial, made sure that would happen.
On Friday they began “The Final Mile,” a more than 1,000 mile trek to escort Taylor’s body to Kentucky.
“We are vets helping vets and this is our last opportunity to help this vet. They’re our brothers and sisters.” David Allen, with the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association, told WFTS. “It’s not really a sad day, he was 96 years old. So for us, it’s a rolling celebration of life.”
The motorcade was joined by state, police and volunteers from various military groups at each state line along the way, WAVE reported.
“Because (Taylor) is a Kentucky Colonel, Louisville has rolled out the red carpet,” Ron Stoll, of Jennings Funeral Home in Sarasota where Taylor’s funeral service was held Friday, told the Herald-Tribune. “We had a venue selected where we were going to stop before the cemetery (in Kentucky), but the Louisville police said no, that’s not big enough, we have more units that are going to lead and accompany you in this salute than we can get into that venue. So they moved it to a much larger venue.”
Taylor joined the Army Air Corps in 1941, during the outset of the U.S. entering World War II. He later served during the Korean War in the Army’s 38th Ordinance Company. When he returned to Louisville after the war he was awarded the title “Kentucky Colonel,” an honor given to recognize outstanding accomplishments or service.
He later traveled the country operating “Colonel Taylor’s Fly By Night” concession stands at county fairs, music festivals and other events, according to a crowdsource funding account set up to help pay for the multi-state escort. Rather than flowers, those who wish to honor Taylor are asked to donate to it. Taylor later retired to Zephyrhills and raised border collies.
Taylor’s service was Sunday at Rest Haven Memorial Park in Buechel, Kentucky, WWSB reported.
“Full military honors means a three-volley salute, which is not something you’re usually going to get for an unclaimed veteran, and Mr. Taylor has certainly earned it,” Allen told the Herald-Tribune. “There’s a history to it. Back in the old days when armies would line up and shoot at each other, they’d call a time out so that both sides could care for their dead. When one side finished, they fired a three-volley salute to notify the other side it was their turn to get the bodies. The three-volley salute means, we’ve taken care of our dead.”