Greg Zanis, the Chicago-area man who built crosses, stars of David and other remembrances and drove them to sites of mass shootings and disasters throughout the United States, lost his battle with cancer at 69 years old.
Chicago’s WGN-TV confirmed with Zanis’ daughter Susie early Monday morning that her father died due to complications from bladder cancer.
Prior to her father’s death, Susie organized drive-by procession and a living visitation so that supporters could say their goodbyes while Zanis greeted them from his porch.
Susie has shared regular updates through the GoFundMe campaign which she created to cover expenses for her father’s funeral. Last Wednesday she shared a direct video update from her father who thanked those who had donated.
“I just want to thank everybody that’s helped me out with $80,000 worth of donations…” Zanis said. “That’s what America is like. We love each other. We’re there to help the world out… I see this as who we are today.”
Speaking of the many national tragedies which he responded to over the years, he said “That’s not who we are” and that it “doesn’t define” the American people.
In light of Zanis’ death, Aurora, Illinois Mayor Richard C. Irvin released the following statement:
“Mr. Greg Zanis was a giant among men. He was a man of action who simply wanted to honor the lives of others. In return, his life was one of honor and one that was celebrated throughout our nation and world. Heeding to the scripture ‘pick up your cross and follow me,’ Mr. Greg Zanis did just that. He picked up the crosses he made and followed his mission in the noblest of ways. His legacy shall forever be remembered in his hometown of Aurora and around the globe.”
Report from WGN-TV
About Greg Zanis
His organization Crosses for Losses hand-made and delivered 27,000 memorials throughout the United States over the past 23 years. Zanis began his work in 1999 after the shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado.
Zanis would load the crosses into the bed of his pickup, drive them to the latest tragedy-stricken location and spend hours erecting them before driving home. He also made Stars of David for Jewish victims and crescent moons for Muslims.
“The whole country is made in the image of God,” Zanis would say.
He estimated that approximately 21,000 of the white crosses were for shooting victims. The rest of the memorials were for victims of tornadoes, wildfires, plane crashes and other disasters.
Zanis was born in Spokane, Washington, in 1950 to a Greek Orthodox priest and Greek immigrant seamstress mom. His middle name, Steven, is Stavros in Greek, meaning “cross” — a point he often made in media interviews.
A religious man, Zanis grew up Greek Orthodox and spent many years as a Baptist. He was always quick to chuckle about his delinquent days “smoking pot and sleeping in the van” in Key West and racing his Pontiac Trans Am in the cross-country Cannonball Run of Burt Reynolds fame.
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