OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - A photograph of 9-year-old Kaiden Wade standing in the rain during Saturday's funeral procession of Coast icon Jerry O'Keefe has turned heads and stirred hearts across the internet. It was a gesture that also made his mother, father and the entire O'Keefe family very proud.
He initially wanted to see the horse-drawn hearse as part of the procession in Ocean Springs, but the exchange was later in the route and he missed it.
"He didn't turn or leave in disappointment, he stood there respectfully until the entire funeral procession went by, which made it a little more special," said Jeff O'Keefe, son of Jerry O'Keefe.
Kaiden stood at the corner of Cleveland and Porter - drenched with rain with his hand over his heart - for about 30 minutes. All to pay respect to a man he didn't even know."
And so, the O'Keefe family decided to have a meet and greet at Bradford O'Keefe Funeral Home in Ocean Springs Wednesday to introduce him to the man he honored.
"It really stirred the family and stirred our curiosity as to who he was and what motivated him to be there and to be so respectful," O'Keefe said.
And it was emotional for his father who witnessed the whole thing.
"It was one limo, the hearse, another limo and then a bunch of cars," he said. "And finally the last police car come through and Kaiden was still standing there with his hand over his heart. It was very moving."
As part of the visit, Kaiden also got to see the horse-drawn carriage that he missed during the procession.
"I'm just so proud of him," said Kaiden's mother, Amy Wade. "He's such a simple hearted child. Both of my grandfathers were veterans. ... He just knows how respectful it is to honor our veterans."
The shy fourth-grader had a simple reason for what he did.
"It's just respect. Because he was a World War II veteran and you stand for the whole thing."