Greg Zanis, who built crosses to honour mass shooting victims, passes away aged 69

Greg Zanis
Greg Zanis
*Image credit: Stacey Wescott/ Chicago Tribune

Greek American Greg Zanis, who spent over 20 years making and delivering crosses to honour victims of mass shootings in the U.S., passed away on Monday at the age of 69, after a battle with cancer.

Zanis founded 'Crosses for Losses' to honour his father-in-law who was fatally shot in 1996. "It really helped me with my grieving process," Zanis said in 1999.

His death was announced by his daughter who posted "Greg has passed onto his new life," on a GoFundMe page.

The 69-year-old was diagnosed late last year with bladder cancer and was originally given a few years to live, but the cancer spread and his health crumbled, his family said.

A drive-by event to salute Greg Zanis was held outside his house on Friday. His friends, loved ones and those he touched in almost a quarter-century of delivering and erecting memorials created in his Aurora, Illinois, workshops, wanted to see him one last time.

Wrapped in a red blanket and matching skull cap, Zanis greeted them from a wheelchair at the front door.

“Mr. Greg Zanis was a giant among men,” Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin said in a statement on Monday. “He was a man of action who simply wanted to honour the lives of others. In return, his life was one of honour 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.”

The master carpenter made over 27,000 crosses and set them up in cities across the nation where there have been mass shootings: Columbine, Newtown, San Bernardino, Pittsburgh, Parkland, Las Vegas, Thousand Oaks, Dayton, El Paso.

Zanis' legacy will go on. Rest In Peace.

A GoFundMe page has been set up for his funeral expenses.