Get the latest BPR news delivered free to your inbox daily. SIGN UP HERE.
One World War II veteran really loves his Juicy Fruit.
Born in 1925 and drafted in 1944 to fight in World War II, veteran Suttie Economy loves Mars-Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit chewing gum so much that he requested that his future casket be painted like a pack of Juicy Fruit gum when he dies.
Luckily for Economy, a resident of Roanoke, Virginia, Mars-Wrigley has agreed to the request, though it didn’t at first.
According to local station WDBJ, his request was originally made to his buddy Sammy Oakey, the owner of Oakey’s Funeral Service and Crematory. Oakey subsequently reached out to Mars-Wrigley, but was denied.
“Mars-Wrigley, the company that owns the Juicy Fruit trademark and logo, said at first the funeral home couldn’t use the trademark. The company said in an email statement to Oakey, ‘They are only used for our products, advertising and licensed merchandise,” the station reported last Wednesday.
Undeterred, Oakey decided to take his case to the people:
This week, our Roanoke Chapel received a telephone call from a local World War II veteran who is in ill health at the…
“This week, our Roanoke Chapel received a telephone call from a local World War II veteran who is in ill health at the V.A. Hospital in Salem. For over fifty years, this gentleman has been known in our region for his habit of taking packs of Juicy Fruit chewing gum wherever he goes and giving them to anyone he comes into contact with,” Oakey wrote in a since-viral post to Facebook.
“This kindness has endeared him to many citizens in the Roanoke Valley. While having difficulty breathing, this veteran is in excellent mental health and knows exactly what he is saying. His sole request for his funeral is to have his casket painted or an applique applied to it that would make the coffin look like a giant pack of Juicy Fruit.”
He concluded the post by describing how he’d reached out to Mars-Wrigley but been denied access to the trademark.
“When we communicated the bad news to the ill veteran, he was crushed that his one request had been squashed by the corporation that he had faithfully patronized for decades,” he wrote.
Naturally, the post spurred some outrage.
“This response from Wrigleys is heartbreaking and infuriating,” one of many commenters replied. “Mars Wrigley Shame on you,” another added.
But the post also spurred something else: A breakthrough in the case!
It turns out that one of the people who viewed the post apparently had the email address to Wrigley’s president and decided to give it to Oakey, and so Oakey used the address to reach out directly to the boss up top. And lo and behold, it worked.
“So I emailed him and got a reply back within a couple of days saying they would change their policy and allow this to be done and actually give some Juicy Fruit Product for the visitation,” he said to WDBJ.
Thanks to Oakey’s efforts, Economy’s hopefully long faraway future funeral will now be deservedly decked out in Juicy Fruit galore, including a Juicy Fruit casket. And yes, Economy most certainly deserves this gesture — and so much more.
In a profile of him published back in May, local station WFXR described all the horrors Economy had faced while serving in Okinawa, Iwojima, and in the Philippines.
“In May of 1945, during the Okinawa campaign, the crew aboard the USS English helped rescue many men. They escorted the heavily damaged USS Franklin after a kamikaze attack and the USS Bunker Hill after the aircraft carrier was hit by a suicider. Unfortunately, many lives were lost,” the station reported.
Economy was fortunate to not be among those who died.
“We was out there 86 days and nights running back and forth bombarding the islands there. May 11, 1945 was the worst day for me. The Bunker Hill had gotten hit by two suicide planes. Two planes came in real low above the water and radar couldn’t pick ’em up. These men on the ship, by the time they saw the plane coming, it was too late,” he told the station, describing what had happened.
“Our planes’ gas tanks ruptured. Gas flew all over everybody. It burnt some of those men up. When you see men begging in the water and you can’t help ’em, when you see men hanging on a rope on the side of a ship . . . That’s enough to make anybody wake up . . . But, I know one thing. That night when I was laying in my bunk bed, I said, ‘God, that could’ve been me.’”
But it wasn’t his time then — and hopefully, it won’t be his time anytime soon.
Learn more about his ordeals below: