Veteran helped by strangers after holding yard sales to fund his own funeral dies
By RONALD FISHER | The Tribune-Democrat | Published: November 23, 2018
JOHNSTOWN, PA. (Tribune News Service) — A Pennsylvania veteran who received national attention after he held garage sales to raise money for his own funeral has died.
Willie Davis was 66, according to an obituary posted on Picking-Treece-Bennett Mortuary’s website.
Davis, a Navy veteran from Brownstown, was diagnosed earlier this year with Stage 4 skin cancer.
He told The Tribune-Democrat in October that he hoped to be laid to rest next to his parents in Culpeper, Va., and that he decided to hold garage sales on the weekends to collect money to cover his funeral and burial expenses.
Davis’ story hit the local and national media after Johnstown residents Ed Sheets and David Dunkleberger stumbled across one of his garage sales, heard his story and decided to start a GoFundMe page in his name to help him raise money. His goal of about $15,000 was quickly surpassed when donations began pouring in from across the country.
As of Oct. 12, Davis had raised nearly $65,000, and he decided to turn his attention to helping other local veterans in need.
He was reportedly talking with Tom Caulfield, director of Johnstown-based nonprofit organization Veterans Community Initiatives, about ways the leftover funds could potentially be used to support other struggling veterans.
“I don’t know how long I’ve got left ... but if I can help people, I will,” Davis told The Tribune-Democrat in October. “That’s the way I’ve always lived my life.”
A post on Sheets’ Facebook page Wednesday expressed his sympathies and continued appreciation for Davis.
“We found out this morning that Willie Davis passed away overnight at Conemaugh Hospital,” Sheets’ Facebook post read. “Willie was an amazing person and as much as he appreciated David and I coming into his life, we also appreciated the chance to meet and help him. A huge thank you to everyone who shared Willie’s story and contributed to the GoFundMe. ... Rest In Peace Willie. Prayers with his family during this difficult time.”
A post on Dunkleberger’s Facebook page on Wednesday read: “Unfortunately our buddy Willie Davis lost his battle with cancer overnight. We’re happy to know that he is no longer suffering. We were fortunate to come across Willie’s yard sale that day. Thank you to everyone who helped our effort to making Willie’s final wish come true. It was an honor to allow him to rest and have some peace of mind during his final few months.”