Best of AP — Honorable Mention


Through a story of sadness and dying, AP shows the possibility of hope through the reaction of strangers

Abandoned Veteran's Funeral Image ID : 24172611208075 Former U.S. Marine Gerry Brooks is laid to rest Thursday, June 20, 2024 at the Maine Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Augusta. Hundreds of people attended the funeral after Brooks died alone last May and a funeral home asked for volunteers to serve as pallbearers. AP PHOTO / PATRICK WHITTLE

Abandoned Veteran’s Funeral

After reporter Patrick Whittle signed in for the morning, he had to pivot quickly from an assignment to show how farm workers were dealing with one of New England’s hottest days of the year so far. The ask: Do his best to get video, photos and text from a funeral for an abandoned war veteran.  

The former U.S. Marine had died alone at a nursing home in Maine. Afterward, the funeral home posted a notice asking if anyone would serve as a pallbearer or simply attend his burial. Whittle hurried to the assignment, an hour away in Augusta. With little time to spare, he sent in a few quick cellphone photos to go along with the story he and John Seewer had put together after catching wind of the funeral over the weekend. Then he set out to document the event.  

Whittle pulled together a multimedia trove, delivering photos, text and video interviews of some of the hundreds of strangers who arrived to give their respects at the funeral. Nick Ingram produced the video edits. At least two people passed out during the ceremony because of the brutal heat, but Whittle stood strong and told the story of a person who had been forgotten.

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