GR US

Greg Zanis Made Crosses for Shooting Victims, Suffering from Terminal Cancer

Αssociated Press

FILE- Greg Zanis prepares crosses to place at a makeshift memorial for victims of a mass shooting at a shopping complex Monday, Aug. 5, 2019, in El Paso, Texas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

AURORA, IL – Greek-American Greg Zanis who made crosses and brought them to the sites of many mass shootings across the United States is now suffering from terminal cancer, CNN reported.

Zanis, 69, the founder of the organization Crosses for Losses, was diagnosed in November 2019 with bladder cancer, CNN reported, adding that “he was originally given a few years to live, but the cancer spread and his health crumbled, his family says,” and “he's in home hospice care and doesn't have long left.”

Zanis told CNN in a recent phone interview, “I'm very, very devastated with the whole thing. I can't stand the thought of doing nothing.”

“His friends and loved ones, as well as those he touched in almost a quarter-century of delivering and erecting about 27,000 memorials created in his Aurora, IL workshops, want to see him and share their condolences,” CNN reported, adding that “with Illinois under stay-at-home orders amid the coronavirus pandemic, it's not safe for Zanis to accept visitors.”

“His daughter, Susie, plans to host a ‘living visitation’ Friday so folks can come say hello and goodbye from the yard, and Zanis will greet them from the front porch window,” CNN reported, noting that “signs expressing fond wishes and memories are encouraged.”

Susie Zanis told CNN, ”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, but the Lord is faithful, so one day at a time.”

Greg Zanis told CNN about his current condition, “Lots of pain all the time. I don't know why I'm suffering for so many months.. Everything is struggling.”

Following his diagnosis in November, Zanis underwent “surgery to remove a tumor but soon learned the cancer had metastasized,” CNN reported.

"We thought he had more time, and unfortunately after the PET scan, the cancer is all over the place," his daughter told CNN.

A few days after Christmas, Zanis told CNN “he was worn out and would be handing over his cross ministry to Lutheran Church Charities,” adding that “his final trip was to Saugus High School in Santa Clarita, a city north of Los Angeles, where he delivered two crosses.”

At that time, he told CNN, “I am tired. I suffer a lot when I do [the crosses]. It's very hard on me. I had the weight of the world on my shoulders.”

Zanis at that time made no mention to CNN of his diagnosis, and “in fact, he was looking forward to teaching the charity's staffers to build the crosses -- as well as to a personal project: restoring a shot-up 1927 Cadillac Imperial stretch limousine that once belonged to a Chicago gangster, he said,” CNN reported.

Making crosses, however continued to occupy his time even in retirement and “also drained his family's savings,” CNN reported, adding that “for 23 years, he built the crosses, along with stars of David for Jewish victims and crescent moons for Muslims, by hand.”

"The whole country is made in the image of God," Zanis often said, CNN reported.

Though Crosses for Losses did receive donations over the years, there were times when funds were short and Zanis would pitch in the difference, CNN reported.

A GoFundMe campaign was launched by Susie Zanis, CNN reported, adding that “while she has secured enough money to pay off her father's debts and cover his impending funeral arrangements, she is leaving the fundraiser open to provide for her mother.” “Greg Zanis is also looking to sell the 1927 Cadillac, which he never got a chance to fully restore, he said,” CNN reported, adding that he also published his memoir, titled The Cross Man.

Zanis wrote the book “with the help of an English teacher from nearby Geneva High School,” and it “chronicles his upbringing and plots his journey from a pot-smoking hippie who drove his Pontiac Trans Am way too fast to the man the world knows today,” CNN reported.

“I just felt like doing it. If I don't do it right now, nobody'll get it done,” Zanis told CNN.

Susie Zanis told CNN that she “hopes proceeds from the book can help with the family's finances.”

When “asked if her father's cross legacy was to blame for the late cancer diagnosis, Susie Zanis brushed off the notion,” CNN reported, adding that “delivering crosses was healing for her father.”

She told CNN that her father “doesn't believe in going to the doctor,” and “he hates needles and is reluctant to visit a physician for anything more than getting his blood pressure checked.”

More information about the GoFundMe campaign is available online: https://www.gofundme.com/f/gregzanis