Born in 1950 the son and grandson of a line of Clergy, Greg was raised on Jesus. Greg’s first language is Greek both spoken and written. His Dad was a reverend at a large Chicago South Side Church in the early 1960’s. Greg was an altar boy. He sang Gregorian chants. They were not allowed to have a bible. In fact his dad had a lock on it.
He attended both public and private school, and when at high school, he kept a bible in the locker and read it four times. Everyone teased him for carrying it to classes. They lived next door to Sacred Heart Seminary. He spent years on campus but did not want to be a priest.
Then, at a young age, he started working with woods. He built everything from row boats, pool tables, furniture, train layouts, chess sets and little things. Then a turn in scope of his projects got bigger. He remolded some bathrooms in their house. He got a job at a kitchen cabinet makers and that same year he built a new kitchen and installed it. It was then, Greg could see that it was what he wanted to do.
So next he finished the basement. He added a wine cellar, a new basement kitchen, a new full bathroom with a built in tile tub. From the beginning, the building came easy to him. He also built an in ground swimming pool in the green house and installed ceramic tiles, and added a heater. He loved to swim in it.
Then he built a room on top of the house to live in for the next 6 years. All of this was done before he was out of high school.
In 1970, at college he met Sue who later became Sue Zanis. They dated for 4 years. Later Sue asked him why he did not kiss her for over a year, he told her he never was going to kiss her until they knew that they would get hitched. And they did in 1974. They got married in Chicago. That year Chicago had 950 murders. He bought a lot and built his first big house in Batavia. Sue’s dad came by and helped him after building that house. He went to union carpentry school and started building in residential.
Greg also flipped some old houses. He became a master Carpenter.
But everything changed when Sue’s dad was murdered in 1996.
Greg found Sue’s dad dead at the bottom of the stairs. He was shot in the head dead. He found him in a pool of bright red blood. This was the game changer for him. Now all that mattered did not matter anymore. That same year, there were car crashes. Murders were killed in Aurora Illinois, and Greg made the first memorial cross.
This carpentry soon became a value to him. Making crosses soon took a new meaning to his life. A short story was put in a paper after 15 crosses were put up. In the story Zanis said “I would put up a cross for any one at any time and any place” ( The Beacon-News Aurora Illinois Feb 18, 1997 ). White Crosses Mark Losses By Marcia Z. Nelson, this front page title became Zanis Crosses known from then.
Thanks to Marcia. People started to asked. After a couple of years and 200 crosses in 5 states, a woman in Naperville Illinois killed her 3 kids and the crosses were slapped on the back page of a tabloid ( The Enquior ) again saying Zanis would give a cross anywhere any time.
One month later, Columbine happened and Zanis was off to Colorado at that time this was the worst school shooting in American history. Columbine is a great spiritual awakening to Greg. After few years, Greg bought a new truck. He put the Columbine crosses at the back and added 500,000 miles driving all across the country.
While Zanis was crusading he built thousands of crosses at every event. He would be asked for a cross and prayer vigil. The more Zanis is in the news the more people want his crosses. One day he got home sick. He wanted to be home at night.
This meant that he got to teach his two sons the trade. This was easy since Sue, his wife home schooled their 5 children ( Maria- Cathy-Chris-Susie-Gregory ). Now he was able to build crosses at his shop. At that time, a man named Rev. Dan Haas started to do prayer vigils in Aurora Illinois (that’s the year before Bud was murdered).
He and Rev. David Engelbarth did one for him. David said in 1996 that in effect if a cross was put up every time “Aurora will look like Arlington cemetery”. Greg took that and ran with it. He followed Dan and Dave for 20 years. They put 200 crosses at the sites. There are hundreds of cross stories to be told. This is not a book. All of those single deaths meant more to Greg than the big ones because no one wants there son or loss to go unnoticed.
We know what it means for someone to extend a hand of love. We love to give you a cross. I can’t believe that Denver had another mass shooting at a movie in suburb of Aurora Colorado. Going back to Colorado again was the hardest we have ever had to do. This time the 1,000 mile drive seemed to take two days. Greg couldn’t stop crying. Sunday morning the mayor was there and they prayed. Greg stopped crying when the Mayor offered him new hope after the journey. Now he make the crosses and keep quiet and every one would have a blank pulpit to talk to. We find people have plenty to say and this allows family and friends a voice by me that is not overpowering. In one the summer of 1999, Greg was at Creation fest in Penn and after going on stage he felt wrong. He do not want that kind of power. For Greg they can do what Christ wanted them to do and so will he. After that Zanis went to Atlana Georgia with Columbine family Darrol Scott and Creg Scot lost Rachel. When Greg was asked to come on stage he refused.