A homeless St. Augustine man was inurned at Jacksonville National Cemetery on Friday after the community worked together to honor his memory.
John Meade made his home on the streets of St. Augustine, where he would befriend the shopkeepers and regulars to St. George Street.
He enjoyed sitting on the bench outside of Bear Mountain Outfitters, feeding the pigeons and making small talk with whoever passed by, like Dionna Tackett.
“He was just a sweet, nice guy and when you would try to do things for him, he would reverse on you and try to do something for you instead if he could,” Tackett said. “Every now and then I would bring him a home-cooked dinner, and he would get so excited about the smallest of things. He just touched a lot of people.”
When he died in November, his friends worked together with the St. Augustine Police Department to find out more about Meade and his life.
“John Meade Jr. was a unique soul and connected with everyone he met,” the St. Augustine Police Department wrote in a recent Facebook post. “That’s what the St. Augustine Police Department’s Outreach Team exhausted all resources to find information that would help them learn a little more about Meade. Unfortunately, Meade lived off the grid alone.”
That’s when it was learned that Meade had served in the Army from 1966 to 1968. Having no family to claim his body, SAPD arranged for him to be cremated and inurned at the Jacksonville National Cemetery with full military honors.
Dozens showed up to pay their respects to Meade, including members of veterans groups from across Northeast Florida. A flag was donated to the cemetery in his honor.
Ray Quinn, Vice Chairman of the St. Johns County Veterans Council, led the ceremony, reminding those in attendance that while little is known about Meade, he will always be a soldier.
“We know little of John’s life, but we know that his days in St. Augustine touched the lives of many,” Quinn said. “We here today, we represent John’s family.”
Tackett said a photo of Meade by local photographer Gary Le Vielle contributed to the outpouring of support. It was shared across Facebook and upon seeing it, even people who hadn’t met Meade wanted to honor him.
“Every single person that I’ve spoke to that has seen that picture of him or met him when they passed him by, they all loved him,” Tackett said. “It’s so wonderful because he really did deserve this.”
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