Bernard Coffindaffer is long gone, but his crosses live on—and still attract the attention of travelers who encounter them across West Virginia and around the world.
Once a wealthy businessman, the late Coffindaffer spent more than $2.5 million erecting over 1,800 sets of three crosses around the globe.
A Craigsville native who became a Christian when he was 42 years old, he had a vision to “plant” crosses around the world. He referred to them as “crosses of mercy” and said the idea came to him after he’d had open heart surgery.
He put them—two pale blue, one pale yellow—on prominent spots, such as hillsides, meadows and road banks.He put his first trio on a spot just north of Charleston. They’re now found in 29 states as well as Zambia and the Philippines.
West Virginia has 352 sets of his crosses – more than any other state.
The colors are symbolic because they represent the color of the sky and the light of the sun over Jerusalem. The crosses also have three nails in them symbolizing where a body would have been in a crucifixion.
Coffindaffer died broke in October 1993 after having spent so much of his fortune on building and erecting hundreds of crosses.
But his message of public service still lives on—his crosses are now cared for by others who still share his vision.