Aurora, Illinois carpenter Greg Zanis is the founder of Crosses For Lossesa nonprofit organization that promotes anti-violence messages by constructing and placing white wooden crosses at memorials for crime and violence victims. He is the man who personally constructed, transported and placed the 58 crosses honoring the Las Vegas shooting victims, and this week he has been in Texas placing crosses for the victims of the mass shooting in Sutherland Springs.

You might be wondering how Zanis was able to deliver a cross to Rockford since he's been in Texas all week? It's all thanks to one Rockton resident named Kathy Foster-Ignatchuk (Gustafson).

I am friends with Kathy on Facebook, and last night I saw her posting about traveling to Aurora to pick up a cross from Greg Zanis. I immediately reached out to her to find out how she received this honor. The story she then shared with me gave me the goosies.

Kathy became friends with Greg Zanis' daughter via social media in the wake of the Vegas shootings when she reached out to let them know how much her father's generosity and selflessness touched her.

I'm now going to share some of the words Kathy sent me in a message because she said it way better than I ever could...

When this tragedy happened, and I saw how much the community was becoming divided, I immediately thought to his crosses..maybe as a way to bring some form of comfort or maybe even some calming to our community and to Jaimie's family. Having two sons in the Army, and also having sons who graduated from HHS, when I read that Jaimie was from my community, was in the Army, and then also that he graduated with one of my sons.. the loss was more than compounded.

Kathy then explains how she requested a cross for Officer Cox...

I reached out to his daughter and asked her if there was a way that Greg could make a cross for Jaimie. Unfortunately her Dad was in Texas putting up crosses from the shooting there and wasn't home. But, she told me to call him on his cell. This was my first chance to ever have the honor of talking with him. I told him I knew he was out of town and went on to explain the situation in Rockford. He wasn't aware of the loss here (understandable since he was probably out of the loop with building those crosses and then traveling there.) WITHOUT hesitation he said, "This is where I come in." and he further said that he had crosses made at the house. I told him I would be HONORED to come pick one up.

Off Kathy went to Aurora where Greg Zanis' family had Officer Cox's cross waiting for her...

Kathy Foster-Ignatchuk on Facebook
Kathy Foster-Ignatchuk on Facebook

Kathy then transported the cross to Rockford and went to place it on the memorial set up at Turner and Dawn. Here's the part that really got me...

 I can't see in the dark (am okay to drive as weird as that sounds, but get me outside of the vehicle and I am useless.) So , when I got to Turner and Dawn I drove around and around, and around looking for the memorial. Everyone was saying it was by the road. I walked up and down the road with my flashlight, I stopped two cars.. still couldn't find it. Finally I just parked my truck in the drive of the church, put on my flashers and started to cry.

All of a sudden.. (and this is the AMAZING part) a car came driving by me really slow.

I stopped them and asked if they knew where the memorial was. I explained I am blind in the dark and needed help. The guy pointed and said over there. I said, "I can't even see where you are pointing, I am sooo sorry!" He then said he would drive up to it and park in front of it so I could see it. I returned to my suv and opened up the back and took the cross out. When I came around the side of the truck, thinking they would be close by..they were WAY up the hill from me! ha! So, I put the cross over my shoulder and proceeded to walk up the hill with it to their lights. The two men got out of the car and raced over to me to take it. One putting it over his shoulder to carry for me. When he turned around, my headlamps reflected off of the back of his jacket. It was the RPD.
It said, "POLICE." I stopped in my tracks.
How fitting, you know? So, his brothers in blue carried Jaimie's cross up the hill and placed it.

Kathy Foster-Ignatchuk on Facebook
Kathy Foster-Ignatchuk on Facebook

At this point I wiped the tears from my eyes and thanked Kathy for sharing her amazing story. Then she really did me in when she said this;

I'm so honored I could be Greg's hands and feet to get this cross here. Truly humbled, truly honored, and more than that.. in the process I too found some form of healing.

I hope those who love Jaimie will receive the same.

God Bless you, Kathy Foster-Ignatchuk (Gustafson) for your compassion and devotion. God Bless you, Greg Zanis for your selfless and inspirational work, and God Bless Rockford for showing such support for our brave men and women in blue.

Catch Lil Zim on ‘Q98.5 Mornings with Lil Zim & JB’ on Q98.5 from 5:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. Follow her on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook


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