When Vietnam War veteran Phillip “Paw Paw” Dooley Sr. passed away after a long battle with cancer the Sunday after Thanksgiving, his family was devastated. “It’s always tough saying goodbye, but to the man who was the rock in our family, it was something that I didn’t expect to do when he was 65,” said Shelby Sams, Dooley’s granddaughter.
On the day of his funeral, a procession of 30 cars moved through Kalamazoo, Michigan, from Langeland Memorial Chapel to the Fort Custer National Cemetery in Battle Creek. What the family saw on that drive shocked them.
They saw some cars pull over as the procession passed, while some sped past them. But one man pulled over, got out of his car, and stood by the side of the road. He clasped and bowed his head as the procession passed.
“There was a man who actually got out of his car, stood by his driver side door with his head bowed and his hands clasped in front of him for the entire procession,” granddaughter Shelby said. Her sister, Courtney Steffler, burst into tears. “It was the greatest gesture of respect that I’ve ever seen,” Courtney said.
Garrick Dooley, another grandchild of Phillip Dooley, posted the picture of the stranger and shared it on Facebook. He wanted to track down the stranger and shake his hand.
"My Grandfather was a simple man. He worked harder than anybody I've ever met—he loved even harder. This photo of the…
The post reads:
“My Grandfather was a simple man. He worked harder than anybody I’ve ever met—he loved even harder. This photo of the man showing respect, speaks volumes. It’s very rare to see in today’s society. To the man that gave respect to my PawPaw as we passed by on the way to Fort Custer, I want to say thank you. This lifted up many lowered heads today. If my Facebook friends and family could share this post to find this man, I would love to shake his hand! Kalamazoo to Battle Creek!”
“I just want to say thank you. I’d like to take him to dinner and buy him ice-cream – that’s what my ‘Paw Paw’ would have done,” Shelby Sams said.
The feeling behind the photograph did not stop there, though. Later the family noticed the man in the photograph had been driving a Cadillac. One of their grandfather’s favorite songs had been “Daddy Was Never A Cadillac Kind”. The song even played at his funeral. The family regarded it as a sign from their beloved grandpa.
“[He’s] looking down on us saying, ‘We know you’re in pain but everything is going to be okay,’” Shelby said. “I believe he was there and that was really the perfect message for him and maybe from him,” Courtney added.