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Gallery: Community honors homeless veteran who passed away

Updated: Jan 31

Veteran passed away in a fire last year

(VERSAILLES, Ind.) – Community members braved the bitter cold on Tuesday to honor someone who passed away nearly a year ago. 

67-year-old Donald Mathews was originally from California and found his way to Ripley County in late 2022. 

He was homeless and those who knew him say that was his preference.

He could be seen walking along the local highways and down the roads, never bothered anybody. He simply enjoyed the freedom that he had just to move around. We assumed that he always had been a very independent man,” said Randy Thieman, who officiated the service. 

Numerous people and organizations became involved in his life, and helped him find resources and shelter. 

In February of 2023, Mathews was given a camper to stay in near Versailles. Tragically, the camper caught fire and Mathews, along with his dog, perished in the blaze. 

Ripley County Coroner Jason Bailey spent an extensive amount of time trying to identify family or next-of-kin. However, no family could be identified. 

People who knew Mathews gathered for a burial and a memorial service at Cliff Hill Cemetery in Versailles on Tuesday. 

“I know the weather is cold and nasty, but what I see is a lot of warm hearts,” Thieman said. 

Providing an appropriate burial was made possible by several people and businesses. 

Johnson Township Trustee Tara Diem secured a burial plot, Meyers Funeral Home provided a casket and the gravestone was donated by Gilpin Monuments. 

American Legions from Osgood, Milan and Versailles were also in attendance and gave a 21-gun salute and performed TAPS. 

“Donald we pay respect and honor to you not only for your service, but even more for being a human being, made in the image of God,” Thieman said. 

“The second reason we are here is to realize and celebrate what a tremendously wonderful community we live in,” he added. 

While he is not looking for any credit, Ripley County Deputy Sergeant Corky Houseworth got to know Mathews and helped organize the service.

Here are images from the service on Tuesday:

1 Comment

Thank you to our wonderful community for honoring this veteran. He deserved it. Thank you to all who donated and made this possible and to Randy Thieman for his compassion for his fellow man. God always provides for those that love and serve him.

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