Nearly two weeks after Edward James Rayfield, a homeless Army veteran, died on Aug. 31 after being struck by a car in Matamoras, Pa., authorities had yet to contact a next of kin.
But due to an outpouring of interest and concern after Rayfield’s story appeared in the Times Herald-Record and Port Jervis Gazette late last week, researchers, fellow veterans and the general public reached out in numbers to find Rayfield’s next of kin.
As a result, contact was made with a brother, son and ex-wife, all of whom responded with help for final arrangements and with notifying other family members.
Rayfield’s family has arranged for a memorial service to be held at Knight-Auchmoody Funeral Home in Port Jervis at 11 a.m. Monday. There will be a motorcycle motorcade from the funeral home to Northern New Jersey Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Sparta, N.J., with a military graveside service and burial set for 1 p.m.
Although family members who have stepped forward had not heard from Rayfield, 56, in decades, some yearned for that contact.
“I used to look for my dad, even throughout my high school years," said his son Jamie, 29. "I found his mother while I was in high school. My grandma on my mother's side helped find her. But she didn't know where he was either. We did try looking.”
Jamie Rayfield said he hasn’t seen his father since he was 7, but thinks he knows why his father lived on his own.
“I think he didn’t want to be a burden on anyone,” Jamie said. “... I don't know why he never reached out to someone or tried to look for us, but I believe he chose to keep to himself to not worry us all."
An investigation into the fatal accident is ongoing. Eastern Pike (Pa.) Regional Police Department Chief Chad Stewart said the accident happened at 9:22 p.m. on Aug. 30, and Rayfield was in the middle of the road when he was struck. He was airlifted to Morristown Hospital in New Jersey where he died the next day.