DESERT HOT SPRINGS, Calif. - UPDATE: Linda Murillo called with an update... She said because of our story, she received an incredible response and someone actually made an anonymous donation to Wiefel's Palm Springs Mortuary paying for the entire cost of Mercier's cremation.
Murillo would like to personally thank the community for their support today. She plans to use the money she's already raised and what will come in from next Saturday's remembrance benefit at Escapade to start a fallen veteran fund for local families in need.
Our original story follows:
Linda Murillo was an in-home caregiver for Ronald Mercier, of Desert Hot Springs, for the past six years. The Vietnam war veteran lost his battle to cancer and diabetes on Oct. 4.
"He was a lover, a firefighter and did his time in the service," said Murillo. "When Ron was alive he had told me faithfully, 'Contact the vets. Everything will be taken care of,'" she said.
A viewer called us about how Murillo made a sign and stood carrying it in front of a Desert Hot Springs Stater Brother's, calling on the community for help.
Turns out, Mercier wasn't insured through the Veterans Health Administration like they thought. Murillo said his dream of being cremated and laid to rest at Newport Beach are now put on hold, while she, his caregiver, scrambles to come up with $2,000 to make it happen.
"I'm going to see what I could do, see if it will make a difference," said Murillo.
Murillo also reached out to the Escapade Cocktail Lounge in Desert Hot Springs, a place where Mercier was known and loved.
"This is something that's really touched all of us. I've known him close to 10 years. He was nice and always helped with anything you needed," said Billie Rushfeldt, an employee at Escapade.
With a donation box set up, Escapade manager Fiona Cairns said the business is standing by Murillo's side to help. Cairns plans to host a remembrance benefit including a potluck and raffle starting at 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 19, at Escapade Cocktail Lounge (located at 12347 Palm Dr.).
"She could've just walked away when he passed away last week, but she didn't. She's out there trying to do something about it," said Cairns.
In the meantime, Wiefel's Palm Springs Mortuary said it's holding Mercier as a courtesy while his loved ones search for the money.
Mercier's daughter said she's seeking help from public assistance to qualify for the Riverside County Indigent Burial and Cremation Program, designed to help families that are currently unable to pay for a funeral.
"I just want to hit the goal just enough to get him cremated and maybe take him to Newport one day," said Murillo.
To contact Murillo, call 760-992-4277.
She said donations toward Mercier's services can also be given to the Wiefel's Mortuary in Palm Springs (located at 690 Vella Rd.).
If you are going through a similar situation, applications for the program can be obtained by calling 951-683-2215. Applicants are notified by the program administrator at Rubidoux - Jurupa Valley Mortuary as to the status of their application.