An ailing World War II veteran is having his casket painted to resemble a pack of Juicy Fruit – the gum he’s happily handed out to people in his Virginia community for decades.
Suttie Economy, 94, has suffered health problems over the past year and was being cared for at the VA Hospital in Salem. His health has since improved slightly, and he has been moved to the Virginia Veterans Care Center next to the hospital.
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Economy served in the Navy aboard the USS English in the Pacific during the war. Earlier this year, he sat down with local station WFXR-TV and recounted his experiences for Memorial Day.
A longtime friend, Sammy Oakey, of Oakey’s Funeral Service and Crematory in Roanake, said Economy asked that his casket be painted like a pack of his favorite gum when he dies.
“For decades, Suttie has been known as the guy who takes packs of Juicy Fruit to restaurants, doctors’ offices, funeral homes, firehouses, etcetera, and gives them out to everyone he sees,” Oakey said. “He has probably purchased tens of thousands of packs of the gum over the years.”
Mars Wrigley, the manufacturer of the gum and other candy, initially denied permission to use their federally registered trademark on a casket, Oakey said.
But Oakey’s Funeral Service posted about Economy’s unusual request on social media, garnering a large community response.
Oakey told WDBJ-TV that someone in the community gave him the email address of the candy company president, whom he then wrote about Economy’s request. A couple of days later, he got a response saying the company was making an exception for the veteran.
“We appreciate the role our products have played in creating better moments and more smiles for this individual and the Roanoke community,” a company spokesperson told Fox News.
Oakey said the casket will either be painted to look like a pack of Juicy Fruit or a pall with the logo will be laid over the casket .
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Oakey said the casket or pall won’t be painted until Economy passes away, which he hopes “will be a long time off.”