2 Alumni Give the Gift of Kindness to Vet


posted September 27, 2018

David Dunkleberger, Class of 2014, with U.S. Navy Veteran Willie Davis

Pitt-Johnstown graduates established a funding-assistance web page to help a Cambria County man faced with the most difficult of situations - planning his own funeral. The results of the two alumni's exceptional effort and show of kindness has far exceeded its goal.

Willie Davis, a U.S. Navy veteran, is selling his life's collection of memorable items at weekend garage sales to cover his planned funeral and burial costs at a family plot 200 miles away in Culpeper, VA. “I never imagined I’d be doing something like this. But I felt desperate,” Davis told The Tribune-Democrat.

Davis was diagnosed with a Stage 4 skin cancer (Squamous Cell Carcinoma) during the summer. He has resided in the borough of Brownstown, in Johnstown, for 11 years and is a native of Laurel, MD.

David Dunkleberger, a 2014 Pitt-Johnstown graduate, reportedly stopped by the garage sale and bought a few items and learned of Davis' situation on Aug 4. The meeting left an indelible memory. He contacted his friend Ed Sheets, a 2012 grad.

“When he told me why he was doing this – that he was trying to pay for his own funeral – I was floored,” Dunkleberger told The Tribune-Democrat.

He and Sheets launched a GoFundMe campaign for Davis the next day. The initial goal was reportedly $3,000. The plea went viral through various media channels. As of September 28, the total had reached $54,000, including $30,000 in one day.

"He's done a lot, serving our country, so we wanted to return the favor to him so that his last days could be a little less hectic, a little more peaceful," Sheets told WJAC.

To donate, go to gofundme.com/helpwillied

The donations spiked since The Tribune-Democrat and WJAC-TV reported on Davis. Efforts are underway to set up a legacy fund in Davis’s name to dedicate leftover donations to terminally ill veterans in need, said Dunkleberger.

Dunkleberger is the equipment manager for the Johnstown Tomahawks hockey team. Sheets is a human services caseworker for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

“This incredibly selfless act by these Pitt-Johnstown alumni demonstrates the result of our formula for success: Our Distinctive People + Programs + Place = Exceptional Performance,” said Tammy Barbin, Pitt-Johnstown’s Executive Director of Development and Alumni Affairs.

The University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown was founded in 1927 and is the first and largest regional campus of the University of Pittsburgh. Pitt-Johnstown is recognized by the Princeton Review as a “Best in the Northeast” college, by G.I. Jobs as a “Military Friendly School,” and by Pennsylvania Business Central as a "Top 100 Organization.” The distinctive combination of Pitt-Johnstown’s people, programs, and place results in exceptional performance in preparing students for career and professional success. Pitt-Johnstown is the regional leader, educating for success in the Real World.