Illinois Carpenter Who Built Crosses for Mass Shooting Victims Dies

Greg Zanis

Getty Greg Zanis unloads wooden crosses from the back of his truck in Chicago, Illinois, on May 20, 2017.

Greg Zanis, the Illinois man who built thousands of crosses for victims of mass shootings, died on Monday, May 4, at the age of 69. His daughter announced the news on Zanis’ GoFundMe page, writing “Greg has passed onto his new life. Thank you all for your continuous support.”

Zanis was diagnosed with bladder cancer at the end of 2019 and was given just a few years to live. According to CNN, his cancer spread and his health failed soon after, and he was moved to home hospice care. In his last phone interview with CNN, he said: “I’m very, very devastated with the whole thing. I can’t stand the thought of doing nothing.”

The LCC Hearts of Mercy & Compassion, Crosses for Losses Facebook page posted about Zanis’ passing:

The post reads: “It is with great sadness that we share that Greg Zanis has gone home to Jesus this morning, Monday, May 4. Our prayers continue for Greg’s family, friends, and all those who were served by his Crosses for Losses ministry. LCC’s Hearts of Mercy & Compassion, Crosses for Losses Ministry is blessed to continue the 23 year legacy of Greg Zanis.”

Zanis Founded Crosses for Losses & Was Known Nationally as ‘The Cross Man’

Zanis became known across the country as “The Cross Man” for building thousands of crosses over 23 years for victims of mass shootings. He built about 27,000 crosses and other remembrances — Stars of David for Jewish victims and crescent moons for Muslims — by hand. His daughter told CNN last month: “God used him in a wonderful way, and I’m happy that He used him to bless others the way he did. We’re going to miss him terribly here.”

After building the crosses, he would deliver them across the country in the back of his pickup truck, wherever the latest tragedy had occurred. He made crosses for victims of Columbine, Colorado; Parkland, Florida; and Las Vegas, Nevada, to name just a few. About 21,000 of the crosses and remembrances were for mass shootings. The others were for victims of other disasters like wildfires, plane crashes and tornadoes.

His Daughter Organized a Final Visitation for Friends & Family

Susie Zanis organized a final visitation for her father on Friday, May 1, so his friends and family and those whose lives were impacted by his crosses could say their goodbyes. She wrote on Facebook that “Greg Zanis will not be on this earth much longer as he has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Greg has had a lot of friends interested in visiting, we have a plan since the COVID-19 pandemic is putting a strain on things.”

People were asked to come with a sign and say hello and goodbye from the front lawn. According to CNN, Zanis was able to say hello from his wheelchair at the front door of the home. One sign said: “You’re our hero.”

After hearing the news of his death, many people posted tributes on social media. One person posted on Twitter:

They wrote: “Greg Zanis I will always love you my friend….I was with you from Columbine to your very last day….I have shared your incredible love to others including my daughters…Thank you for everything you have done who lost their lives to violence..My family will always remember you!”

Another posted in response to the Aurora, Illinois, mayor’s tribute:

The message from Mayor Richard Irvin of Aurora, Illinois, reads: “Greg Zanis was a giant among men. Heeding to the scripture ‘pick up your cross and follow me,’ Greg did just that. He picked up the crosses he made & followed his mission in the noblest of ways. His legacy shall forever be remembered in Aurora & around the globe.”

The response reads: “My heartfelt deepest condolences to the family and friends of Mr. Greg Zanis, and to the people of #Aurora, IL who lost a good man who did so much around the country. I remember when Mr. Zanis traveled to Newtown, CT to place 26 crosses near the grounds of Sandy Hook Elementary.”

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