Illinois man who traveled to El Paso to lay crosses for shooting victims dead at 69

An Illinois man who showed up at mass shooting scenes with home-made wooden crosses to honor the victims has died after a battle with cancer.

Greg Zanis was 69 when he died Monday in Aurora, where he lived, according to reports. The retired carpenter had been diagnosed with bladder cancer.

Three days ago, Zanis waved good-bye to friends and well-wishers who passed by his home in a coronavirus drive-by procession organized by his daughter, Susie Zanis, WGN-TV reported.

Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin said Monday that Zanis was a giant among men, according to Fox 32 Chicago.

ILLINOIS MAN WHO DELIVERED TENS OF THOUSANDS OF CROSSES TO VICTIMS OF TRAGEDY RETIRES

Carpenter Greg Zanis sets up wooden crosses in memory of the dead of the "Camp" fire in the Paradise area at the entrance to the village along the main access road. Zanis made wooden crosses in memory of deaths from mass shootings and other incidents. Photo: Barbara Munker/dpa (Photo by Barbara Munker/picture alliance via Getty Images)

Carpenter Greg Zanis sets up wooden crosses in memory of the dead of the "Camp" fire in the Paradise area at the entrance to the village along the main access road. Zanis made wooden crosses in memory of deaths from mass shootings and other incidents. Photo: Barbara Munker/dpa (Photo by Barbara Munker/picture alliance via Getty Images)

“He was a man of action who simply wanted to honor the lives of others," he said. "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,” the mayor added. “His legacy shall forever be remembered in his hometown of Aurora and around the globe."

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Zanis started making the crosses after his father-in-law was murdered in 1996.

Since then he made more than 27,000 crosses.

He has also honored victims of Chicago gun violence, hurricanes, wildfires and other natural disasters.

He visited El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, in August after mass shootings in those two cities.

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"I just feel it’s so important to be here for the families," Zanis said in El Paso.

"We're talking about the gunman, but today it’s going to change -- we’re going to start talking about the families and the victims."