Stranger's kind gesture during funeral procession goes viral

Kalamazoo family looks for the man who paid his respects during a funeral procession. (Credit: Garrick Dooley/Facebook)

A Kalamazoo family is searching for the stranger who went the extra mile to give a touching tribute to a passing funeral procession.

Vietnam War Veteran Phillip “Paw Paw” Dooley Sr. lost a long fought cancer battle the Sunday after Thanksgiving and was laid to rest at Fort Custer National Cemetery Thursday.

“It’s always tough saying goodbye but to the man who was the rock in our family, it was something that I didn’t expect to do when he was 65,” said Shelby Sams, Dooley’s granddaughter

From Langeland Memorial Chapel in downtown Kalamazoo to the cemetery in Battle Creek, the 30-car procession traveled 15 miles. Some cars pulled over to let the procession pass, others sped around the line of cars, but one driver brought the grieving family to tears.

“There was a man who actually got out of his car, stood by his driver side door with his head bowed and his hands clasped in front of him for the entire procession,” said Sams.

She and her sister, Courtney Steffler, burst into tears.

“It was the greatest gesture of respect that I’ve ever seen,” Steffler said.

Someone snapped a photo of the man standing in front of a gold or bronze Cadillac sedan stopped on along W. Michigan Ave. in Augusta. The family posted the picture to Facebook to try to find the mystery man and in just one day that photo has been shared nearly 4,000.

Sams said, “I just want to say thank you. I’d like to take him to dinner and buy him ice-cream that’s what my ‘Paw Paw’ would have done.”

A hardworking family man, Dooley enjoyed the simpler things in life. The song "Daddy was Never a Cadillac Kind" played at his funeral service. Sams called the song her Paw Paw’s personal anthem and she does not think it’s a coincidence that the stranger stopped on the road was in a Cadillac.

Steffler said “My Paw Paw really would have loved to shake the hand of that man, so if we could do that in his honor he would be very happy.”

More than a sign of respect, Dooley’s grandchildren believe the stranger on the side of the road was a sign from their Paw Paw.

Sams said, “Looking down on us saying we know you’re in pain but everything is going to be okay.”

Reassurance their grandfather will always be with them. Steffler said, “I believe he was there and that he was there and that was really the perfect message for him and maybe from him.”

A small gesture can go a long way, even on the darkest of days and Steffler and Sams say that’s a good lesson everyone can learn from.

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