“As long as there are veterans, the Elks will never forget them.”
That’s the message the Bayonne Elks Lodge 434 hoped to send to veterans in the city, as “unclaimed” veteran Melvin Scharf was buried in Jersey City.
“Unclaimed” refers to a person with no family or next of kin to claim the body for burial. The Bayonne Elks would not let Scharf remain “unclaimed,” because he now belonged to the Elks Family.
“Having died without relatives doesn’t mean you have no family,” said a spokesperson for the Bayonne Elks. “This gentleman now has an Elks family.”
The Bayonne Elks is a local chapter of the Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks, a fraternal order with hundreds of thousands of members and a century and half of history.
A network of nearly 2,000 lodges in communities all over the country each year gives millions of dollars in scholarships. The Elks also aim to be an inspiration to youth, and a friend to veterans.
The funeral services for veteran Scharf were held at Holy Name Cemetery on Friday, Feb. 14.
According to the Bayonne Elks, PFC Melvin Scharf was homeless before the Elks helped find him a place to stay.
The Elks helped Scharf move into an apartment in Bayonne in early 2018. The NJ State Elks Veteran’s Committee collected a “Welcome Home Kit,” including furniture. The committee delivered the furniture with the help of members of Bayonne Elks Lodge 434.
Scharf died, “unclaimed,” on Aug. 13, 2019.
The Bayonne Elks firmly believes that no one, let alone a United States Veteran with an honorable discharge, should be “unclaimed” or interred without recognition or mourners. After learning of the situation, Elks members made a few phone calls and sent emails, and the response was immediate.
Once the paperwork proved that Scharf was a veteran, the Bayonne Elks said he was buried with military honors.
Funeral arrangements were made with the help of Elk Kelly Mazzochi, of Sterling Lodge, as well as the Bayonne Office of Aging, the Hudson County Office of Health and Human Services, and Michalski Funeral Home.
The Bayonne Elks said that a number of Elks Lodges and other veterans groups showed up in solidarity, proving that local veterans are never truly without a family. Among those in attendance was the American Legion Post 19 Color Guard.
“Thank you to the members of Bayonne Lodge, Jersey City Lodge, Marlton Lodge, and Stirling Lodge for attending this service,” the Elks said. “Along with members of the VFW from Bayonne and Jersey City, Rock Our Vets, A Hero’s Welcome, Warriors Watch Riders, the local American Legion, and the Hudson County Veteran’s Service Office, we were able to give this veteran the honor he deserved.”
According to the Bayonne Elks, loyalty to veterans dates back to World War I. The Elks organization funded the first relief hospital in France to assist American and Allied wounded military personnel.
Elks members wanted to send a message through their support of Scharf that veterans who have served their country are not alone.
“Melvin had no relatives, but a very dedicated Elks family,” said a spokesperson for the Bayonne Elks.
The Elks continues its mission to support veterans in Bayonne. Just two days after the services for PFC Scharf, the Bayonne Elks Lodge 434 helped another homeless veteran in need, Antoine Leslie, move into an apartment and offered him a “Welcome Home Kit” consisting of furniture and basic necessities.
For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Dan Israel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.