'Giant Among Men' Is Dead at 69

Greg Zanis spent more than 2 decades making crosses, putting them at mass shooting sites
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 4, 2020 6:40 PM CDT
'Giant Among Men' Is Dead at 69
In this Aug. 5, 2019, file photo, Greg Zanis, of Aurora, Ill., stands in silhouette as he prepares crosses to place in memory of victims at a makeshift memorial for victims of a mass shooting at a shopping complex in El Paso, Texas.   (AP Photo/John Locher, File)

An Illinois man who spent years making crosses and bringing them to the sites of mass shootings and other disasters around the US died Monday. The death of Greg Zanis, announced by his daughter, Susie Zanis, was expected after a recent announcement that he had been diagnosed with bladder cancer and did not have long to live. On Friday, the 69-year-old Zanis greeted supporters who drove by his Aurora home as part of a drive-by procession and living visitation that was organized by his daughter. Zanis established Crosses for Losses as a tribute to his father-in-law, who was fatally shot in 1996. Since then, he set up crosses near the mass shootings at Columbine, Sandy Hook, and Parkland, and drove 2,000 miles to install crosses in Las Vegas, reports the AP.

He also set up crosses in places where the deaths did not receive nearly as much publicity, such as the spot in New Mexico where six children died in a bus accident. Just last year, he made crosses for his hometown after a warehouse worker opened fire, killing five of his co-workers before he was killed during a shootout with police. In December, after making and delivering 27,000 crosses, he announced he was retiring. "I had a breaking point in El Paso," he said, referring to the mass shooting outside of a Walmart there. "I hadn't slept for two days, it was 106 degrees and I collapsed from the pressure when I heard there were two more victims of the mass shooting." On Aurora's Facebook page, Mayor Richard Irvin paid tribute to Zanis. "Greg Zanis was a giant among men. He was a man of action who simply wanted to honor the lives of others."

(Read more obituary stories.)

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