UPDATED: After Months in Morgue, Military Veteran Laid to Rest

June 16, 2014

A local military veteran was finally laid to rest Monday, seven months after his passing.

Luther Payne, 95, died in December 2013. His body spent the next several months in the morgue at Martha Jefferson Hospital, while friends worked to get him the burial they felt he deserved.

Emmett Carver, 83, met Luther while visiting nursing homes in Central Virginia, something he and friend Sandy Bingler do each week.

"As we walked through the dining room there were two people playing music for the rest of the residents, and one was Luther Payne. Luther was playing guitar and he had a great big black cowboy hat, and he had these great big beautiful blue eyes that stood out, and he smiled from ear to ear," said Bingler.

Over the next few months Payne, Carver and Bingler developed a very close friendship. Carver, himself a military veteran, shared a special bond with Payne who said he had served with the U.S. Navy.

"Luther would be in his wheel chair, kind of sitting down, kind of leaned over and I would snap to and I would say 'hey sailor, sit up' and he would sit right up and give you the biggest salute. Unless you've been in the military you don't know how to salute like that," Carver said.

Bingler says Payne was admitted to Martha Jefferson that winter, and she and Carver would visit him. Bingler said the hospital believed he had no other relatives, or anyone to look after him.

"Two things we promised Luther, that you're not going to die alone, someone was going be with you and that you're going to have a decent burial," said Carver.

After Payne passed in December, Carver and Bingler began to make funeral arrangements, but they didn't have any documents proving Payne's military service, therefor they couldn't receive any funding to pay for his burial.

"We called everybody," said Carver. "We called the Attorney General in Richmond, everybody we could think of we called."

Carver reached out to Commonwealth's Attorney Denise Lunsford, and with her help, and the help of American Legion Post 74, police, Beaver Dam Baptist Church, and the generosity of volunteers a full military funeral was held today at Beaver Dam.

"I can see his bright eyes, and grinning from ear to ear that sweet smile he had saying thank you. He was a simple man. That's what I could imagine if I could see him and we could speak to him right now," Bingler said.

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