Feel-Good Friday: The Community Shows up for a Veteran Who Gave His Life to His Country

Fellow Veterans Honor Edwin Basterl (Credit: News Nation)

It’s Good Friday and those Christians who observe (trust me, I know some who do not—go figure), are spending the day contemplating, commemorating, and honoring the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, who died on the cross for our sins.


The symbolism of Christ laying down his life for us is most keenly mirrored in those who have served our country. Christ is given the highest honor, because he is God. But those who make the sacrifice to lay down their lives for people they do not know, as well as future generations, is a reason for honor and respect to be given, especially in death.

Right before he was arrested and brought before the Sanhedrin, Jesus said to his disciples,

“There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

Thus, this week’s Feel-Good Friday.

From Asbury Park Press:

After the bugler finished playing “Taps,” Dawn Tabish stood up to address a room full of mourners. She looked astonished.

“The fact that you all came out is immensely, unbelievably wonderful,” she said. “I don’t have the words.”

Tabish did not prepare a eulogy for Edwin Basterl’s funeral, because she didn’t think there would be anyone to hear it. In fact, the vast majority of the 100-plus folks who crammed into Weatherhead Young Funeral Home Thursday morning never met Basterl, an 84-year-old military veteran who died in late March.

Basterl had no surviving family members, at least none that Tabish knew of. In 2014 he suffered a severe stroke that restricted his activities and thus his contact with much of the world. For most of the past two years he lived in pandemic lockdown in a Brick nursing home.

Tabish and her family were among his very small circle of friends. On Wednesday, fearful that no one would show up to his funeral, Tabish’s daughter Hannah Symansky [sic] contacted Patch.com’s Brick website to ask people to attend.

The good people of the Jersey Shore did not let her down.


This brings tears to my eyes. I believe a life well-lived, and especially the life of our veterans, should be given homage and memorialized. The people of Jersey Shore understood this, and stepped up. Bravo to Hannah Symanski for asking people to come. One of the things Jesus said in The Sermon on the Mount is, “Ask, and it shall be given…

Born in Bronx, New York on December 11, 1937, Edwin Basterl joined the Army in 1959. After Basterl served his Army commission, he became a Naval reservist and served for 13 years. He retired from the military in 1964. Basterl made a home in the community of Brick, New Jersey, and became a dental assistant. Basterl met Dawn Tabish when she worked as a driver for senior citizens who needed to get to their appointments. Tabish and her daughter Hannah bonded with the elderly veteran, and he became a part of their family.

Tabish met him two decades ago. As part of her job with Brick Township, she drove senior citizens to various appointments. The two formed a lasting friendship.

“My mom just took him under her wing; we practically adopted him in our family,” said Symanski, now 24. “Growing up I didn’t have a grandfather, so I guess I looked at him like that.”

Because of Simanski’s nimble thinking, more than 100 people showed up to honor Basterl in a one-hour visitation and funeral service on Thursday, April 7.


By 10:25, folks already were lining up to pay respects. They wore hats and jackets emblazoned with American Legion and VFW insignias. They were men and women, 20-somethings and elders with canes. They came from Manchester, Toms River, Jackson, Manasquan, Howell, Lacey and of course Brick.

They filled six pages of the guest book, signing their branch of service along with their names — Navy, Army, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard. A group of active military members from Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst attended. So did several members of the Brick police department.

“We’re all veterans, we’re all brothers,” said Pete Chafatelli, commander of American Legion Post 129 in Toms River. “No man is left behind. This is what we do.”

For all who observe, have a Blessed Good Friday.


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