Greg Zanis, the Aurora carpenter known throughout the country as the man who traveled hundreds of thousands of miles carrying his handmade crosses to scenes of tragedy and loss, died of cancer on May 4, 2020, at the age of 69.
Zanis was renowned across America, marking some of the nation’s greatest tragedies while leaving loved ones with markers of love, loss and remembrance.
Zanis began making crosses in 1996. Among his first was for Nico Contreras, a 6-year-old Aurora boy who died as a result of gang violence.
He went on to build crosses in honor of the victims of the Columbine shooting in 1999, and continued to leave markers at sites of mass shootings and other national tragedies.
Among his most recent were the crosses remembering the victims of the Pratt mass shooting in his hometown of Aurora.
“Mr. Greg Zanis was a giant among men,” Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin said in a statement Monday. “He was a man of action who simply wanted to honor the lives of others.”
Zanis has a Go Fund Me page that so far has raised more than $95,000 for funeral expenses and financial recovery.
“(Zanis) has been trying to comfort and give peace to those in need with his handmade memorials for over 20 years,” the Go Fund Me page says. “He has made and personally delivered over 26,000 memorials.”
‘The Cross Man — Crosses For Losses’
Zanis wrote a memoir late in his life, The Cross Man – Crosses For Losses, which traces his life from youth to his unique ministry in retirement.
Told to his high school English teacher, Donna Lee, the paperback book is 231 pages and is available through the Aurora Historical Society online gift shop at www.aurorahistory.net. It is priced at $23.99 plus tax and shipping.
All proceeds will go to the family.
“We are honored to do this service for the family,” said society Executive Director John Jaros, who also wrote a tribute to Zanis which appears on the back cover. “Greg showed us all how to be lovingly generous.”
The book sold out as soon as it was released in April and is currently being reprinted. Historical Society vice president Greg Probst said he expects the second order to come in by the end of the week and will organize volunteers to help get them out promptly.
More information is available on the historical society website or Facebook (aurorahistory).
Another nonprofit group, Lutheran Church Charities, has taken over his cross-building mission.
SOURCE: city of Aurora website, Aurora Historical Society news release, Greg Zanis Go Fund Me page
I met Greg Zanis of Crosses for Losses near the Indiana line and rode with him into Dayton, where he will lay crosses for the shooting victims. He drove from El Paso. Here, he shows me the notebook where he keeps the names of the roughly 26,000 victims he’s honored since 1996. pic.twitter.com/oXznuaiLJD
— Eliott C. McLaughlin (@ByEliott) August 7, 2019