Man who spent years making crosses for mass shooting sites dies

AURORA, Ill. — An Illinois man who would make crosses and bring them to mass shooting locations died Monday.

Greg Zanis died after being recently diagnosed with bladder cancer in Aurora. His daughter, Susie Zanis, had recently said that he did not have long to live.

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.”

REST IN PEACE, MR. GREG ZANIS. Just days after a parade celebration to honor his work, Aurora's own Greg Zanis - aka...

Posted by City of Aurora, IL, Government on Monday, May 4, 2020

Zanis established Crosses for Losses as a tribute to his father-in-law, who was fatally shot in 1996.

“It really helped me with my grieving process,” he told The Associated Press in 1999.

Since then, he set up crosses throughout the United States, including near the mass shootings at Columbine, Sandy Hook and Parkland and at the site of the Las Vegas music festival shooting and the Orlando nightclub shooting.

He also set up crosses in places where the deaths did not receive nearly as much media publicity, such as the spot in New Mexico where six children died in a bus accident.

In 2016 he made more than 700 crosses that were carried along Michigan Avenue in Chicago to honor each person who had been killed that year. Last year, he made crosses for his hometown after a warehouse worker opened fire, killing five co-workers before he was killed during a shootout with police.

In December, after making and delivering 27,000 crosses for more than two decades, he announced he was retiring.

“I had a breaking point in El Paso,” he said, referring to the mass shooting outside of a Walmart in El Paso, Texas. “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.”

The Associated Press contributed to this story.