Some may call it a hobby, Roy Stapleton calls in a mission.
After nearly eight years of work, he finally reached his goal. Stapleton has handed out just over 20,000 crosses. He has 88 of his large crosses in 17 states with 25 of them in Kentucky.
He has several of the large crosses in local establishments such as churches, funeral homes, hospitals and Gateway Christian School.
Stapleton often hands out small crosses to people in the community and makes a stand up item with three crosses on it as well. He also makes pin on crosses for people to wear.
“I’m trying to get them in every state,” said Stapleton.
He credits his wife Norma, who passed away in 2012, for his success in making the wooden crosses.
“If she was here today, she would say well that’s 20,000, you can’t stop now,” said Stapleton. “She would say to keep going.”
Stapleton started making crosses for his son-in-law, Dr. Neil Barry III, in Oct. 2005 when Barry joined Knoxville doctor Clint Doiron and five others on a mission to Haiti. From that point on, making crosses would be a full-time hobby for him.
In 2006, Stapleton’s sister’s husband, Joe Sadowski, died with cancer. Stapleton said he took several crosses he had left over with him to give to the doctors and nurses at the funeral.
A male friend of Stapleton’s sister was at the funeral and he gave a cross to the man and his daughter. The friend asked him what the cross was made out of and Stapleton responded with Walnut. He told the friend that he had just ran out of material.
“He (the friend) said…if you keep making them (crosses) I will see that you never run out of Walnut wood,” said Stapleton.
It turned out the friend at the funeral was the owner of Spartacraft Inc., Wade Moose. Moose still supplies Stapleton with wood to this day. Jim Elliott, owner of a wood-craft factory in Morristown, Tenn., also supplies Stapleton with wood.
“I get plenty of wood,” said Stapleton.
In 2011, Stapleton was hospitalized after gangrene set up in his gallbladder. While he was at a hospital in Knoxville, Tenn., Stapleton handed out about 1,000 crosses.
Stapleton admits that he didn’t believe he was going to make it through the operation. He said he even gave the nurse his obituary. Ultimately, he made it through the operation successfully.
While in therapy at Pineville Community Hospital, Stapleton gave 200 crosses to the chaplain. The hospital also has two of his big crosses.
Stapleton never charges for a cross. He says whatever he needs has a tendency of finding its way to him.
“The only thing I’m out is my glue, my pins, my sandpaper and my polyurethane,” said Stapleton. “My labor, I’m working for the big boy and he keeps my time.”
Stapleton also has a book with all the letters he has received from people he has given a cross. He has letters from the Salvation Army to UK basketball coach John Calipari.
“There’s a lot of stories…in there,” said Stapleton about the book.
Stapleton noted several friends who assist him in making and giving out crosses. Among them are Moose, Elliott, Kenneth Wilson, Dr. Jerry Woolum, Dr. C.C. Moore, Dr. Bruce Wilson, Charlie Nagle, Zelda Robbins, Theresa Wilson and Ada Cloud.
Stapleton is also a World War II veteran. He was stationed in Southampton, England, where he worked loading ships. From there he was sent to Germany. He served under General Patton after the Battle of the Bulge, but never made it to the front lines.
“I spent two weeks with my clothes on, waiting to be called to the front lines, waiting for them to blow the whistles,” said Stapleton.
The war ended before the whistle was sounded.
Reach Anthony Cloud at 606-248-1010, ext. 208, firstname.lastname@example.org