clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Aurora’s ‘Cross Man’ dies from cancer

Retired carpenter Greg Zanis built thousands of crosses for shooting victims across the country.

Greg Zanis, a retired carpenter from Aurora, displays a selection of the 2,000 crosses he built for America’s gun massacre victims in a vacant lot near South Bishop and West 56th streets in January 2018.
Greg Zanis, a retired carpenter from Aurora, displays a selection of the 2,000 crosses he built for America’s gun massacre victims in a vacant lot near South Bishop and West 56th streets in January 2018.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times file

He had lost his characteristic energy to cancer, but Greg Zanis still was dedicated to his legacy the last time he met with an Aurora historian.

Though frail, the retired carpenter visited with Aurora Historical Society Executive Director John Jaros last Wednesday to talk about his final work, “The Cross Man,” a book about the person behind the white crosses that defined his life.

“He was a man of great faith, but also great energy, and I think he needed something to do, and he really found something that fit for him to not only to use his carpentry craft, but his faith and his empathy,” Jaros said. “And he just went everywhere.”

Zanis, the carpenter who single-handedly built thousands of crosses for shooting victims across the country, died Monday morning. He lived long enough to see hundreds of people drive by his home in a long procession Friday, a “living visitation” held by his family to give Zanis some peace and comfort in his final days.

“He was a man of action who simply wanted to honor the lives of others,” Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin said in a statement. “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.”

Zanis began making crosses in 1996 to help him grieve the murder of his father-in-law. He built his first one in honor of Nico Contreras, a 6-year-old killed in Aurora that year, at the request of the boy’s mother.

Read more at dailyherald.com