Not forgotten: Hundreds of strangers honor lonely WWII vet at wake
Hundreds of strangers paid tribute at a Kentucky funeral home to a “humble” survivor of World War II’s Normandy Invasion whose caregiver had worried that no one would come to his funeral.
Vet Warren McDonough was 91 when he died Saturday. He never married and his only known survivor was a nephew in Florida. The big crowd who attended his wake Thursday night at Ratterman’s Funeral Home in St. Matthews showed up in response to a call from Lena Lyons, who runs a boarding home where McDonough spent his final days.
Lyons told WHAS-TV McDonough deserved to be remembered because of what he did for his country. He was part of the first wave at Omaha Beach and earned a Purple Heart. But he never talked about his wartime experience—except for one time, she said.
“He said he pretended to be dead until they all went away,” she told WHAS-TV. “He said, ‘And then I inched slowly across other bodies and I went across this one guy and his lips were moving and I got up close to him and he was saying the Lord's Prayer.’ And he said. ‘I laid with him and stayed with him and prayed with him until he died.’”
More strangers are expected to attend McDonough’s funeral Friday at Fairmont Cemetery in Central City. He is being buried with full military honors.
At the wake George Southern and other members of the Kentucky and Indiana Patriot Guard stood at the entrance to the funeral home in the cold as an honorary color guard, WLKY-TV reported.
"He gave his life and his days for us to have this freedom to do this and we stand in honor of him," Southern told the station.
Lyons said McDonough wrote his own obituary but did not include everything.
"Nothing about the Purple Heart or his Medal of Courage, nothing, not even that he was in the Army, let alone that he went to Normandy,” she told WLKY. “He was a very humble man.”
Lyons told WHAS McDonough always said he was not a hero.
“I was just doing what I was supposed to do,” she quoted him as saying.