94-year-old Suttie Economy really loves chewing gum. Not just any gum, mind you, but Wrigley's Juicy Fruit chewing gum.
For decades, the Virginia man has been known for his love of this iconic American brand, which was introduced all the way back in 1893. Suttie first began chewing the gum in his ration packs during his time on the frontlines of WWII. Because of limited resources during the war, parent company Wrigley dedicated their entire production of chewing gum to the U.S. Armed Forces.
After his service, Suttie moved back to Roanoke, where he became known for giving away packs of Juicy Fruit to people wherever he went.
"It served as a symbol for his mission to talk to people about the World War II memorial and to honor the deceased veterans that died for our freedom," said Suttie's brother, John.
Three weeks ago, Suttie was taken to the hospital with a heart condition. After being admitted, he reached out to a long-time family friend and funeral-home owner, Sammy Oakey, with his request to be buried in a casket resembling a pack of Juicy Fruit.
Oakey contacted the Mars Wrigley company and was initially denied permission to use the brand logo for the casket.
"I had to go back and tell the veteran that and he was just crushed because he'd bought tens of thousands of packs of gum over the past 40 or 50 years," said Oakey.
Not wanting to let Suttie down, Oakey launched a social media campaign that drew enough attention to change the company's mind. A few days later, the vice president of Mars Wrigley called him and gave him official permission to use the logo. The company's president also contacted Oakey and told him they'd be sending him 250 packs of Juicy Fruit.
Oakey, along with Suttie's family, are now looking for an artist to create the unique casket (sure to be puzzled over by generations of future archeologists), but they may not need it yet. Since being admitted to the hospital, Suttie is reportedly on the mend!