Honorable service: Weddle Funeral holds vigil to support homeless Vets

November, 2018 Posted in Community, Your Health

By Mary Owen

Veterans have a special place in the hearts of Ryan and Natasha Steele, owners of Weddle Funeral Service.

“Ryan is a combat Army veteran who served in Iraq,” said Steele of her fiancée. “He also worked for the military honors funeral team in Oregon and the National Cemetery Administration. After we purchased the funeral home, Ryan wanted to reach out to veterans and their families so they would understand all the benefits eligible to them. We often find that families have no idea what they are eligible for. It’s really important that they know. After all, they served their country and sacrificed to receive those benefits.”

Weddle not only conducts military honors services, but they host workshops and events to inform and honor veterans and their families. Upcoming is Operation Black Friday, a 24-hour vigil to remember local veterans, starting at noon on Friday to noon Saturday, Nov. 23-24. 

During the vigil, donations will be accepted of warm winter clothing, socks, sleeping bags, blankets, toiletries, non-perishable food and money donations for organizations helping homeless veterans.

“The Stayton VFW will be setting up their coffee cart and donating proceeds,” Steele said.

On Sept. 6, a service was held for Richard Laing, a homeless U.S. Navy veteran who had no known family, suffered from mental illness, and lived on the streets.

“We were contacted by a hospice social worker from Eugene looking for a funeral home that would help this man out,” Steele said. “She was not having much success finding a funeral home to handle his arrangements. At this point, we did not know Mr. Laing was a veteran, but we said of course that everyone deserves to be respectfully laid to rest.

“Later we found out he was a veteran after doing a search with the NCA, which is standard on cases where there is no family and a requirement with the state indigent process,” she added. “After finding out he was a veteran, we felt it was appropriate to give him military honors since he served his country. We had about 35 people in attendance some were strangers, some with the Stayton VFW, American Legion Post 51, Oregon Veteran Riders, The Old Guard and Patriot Guard Riders. Some people came in to sign his guest book.”

The Steeles really want to bring awareness to the crisis of homeless veterans. About one-third of the homeless are veterans, with close to 58,000 vets living on the streets in this country, Steele said, referring to statistics reported by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Of the vigil, Steele said, “Ryan and I felt we can do more than just provide a veteran with a service. We want to make a difference while they are still alive.”

The couple also recently opened Weddle Pet Tributes, which offers cremation and memorial options for pets up to 200 pounds. “This was always something we wanted to do before we purchased Weddle’s,” Steele said.

“Our Boston terriers have become famous. We get e-mails from people all over the country who see them on our website or see the picture of us with them. People even stop by wanting to meet them or bring their dogs in for us to meet.

“Pets are a special part of the family and losing one is so difficult,” she added. “We want to give people that same care and recognition just like with our standard funeral home.”

Also new at Weddle is AQUA cremation, using alkaline hydrolysis instead of fire or flame. It’s the same process that occurs as part of nature’s course when a body is laid to rest in the soil, Steele said.

“Oregon currently has only two alkaline hydrolysis machines,” she said. The process is legal in only two states.

“Hydrolysis is earth friendly, uses less energy, and leaves less impact on the earth. We have had a lot of questions regarding this option because people are more conscious about the environment.”

Operation Black Friday Noon, Friday, Nov. 23 – noon Saturday, Nov. 24
24-hour vigil collecting warm winter clothing, socks, sleeping bags, blankets, toiletries, non-perishable food and money donations for organizations helping homeless veterans. Information: 503-769-2423

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