When 94-year-old Suttie Economy is packed off for the sweet hereafter, his exit strategy is going to be a little sweeter than most.
That’s because Economy plans to be buried in a casket decked out like a pack of Juicy Fruit gum.
The Roanoke, Virginia veteran’s love affair with Juicy Fruit goes back to his days in the service, when as part of the World War II war effort, chewing gum manufacturer Wrigley suspended stateside distribution and sent the bulk of its products to troops overseas.
Since then, Economy has become something of a self-appointed goodwill ambassador for the brand.
Sammy Oakey, president of Oakey’s Funeral Service and Economy have a friendship that goes back 45 years. “Suttie would come in here for visitation or just come in to visit and he would always bring a bunch of packs of Juicy Fruit… and put it out for the employees to enjoy,” Oakey told CNN.
Economy’s gum gifting ways weren’t just confined to funeral home visits. “He did it at restaurants and doctor’s offices—wherever he went,” Oakey said.
After Economy recently suffered heart complications, he approached his longtime pal with a request: When his time came, he wanted to be buried in a coffin painted to resemble his trademark gum—and therein lay the problem.
Mars Wrigley, current owners of the Juicy Fruit trademark, gave Oakey’s plea a thumbs down. “I told him I’d do everything I could to make that happen,” Oakey said in an interview with WLS 10 News. “I immediately called Wrigley’s and they… said no.”
Knowing how important the chewing-gum-themed casket was to Economy, Oakey didn’t give up the fight. The viral social media campaign he launched garnered contact information for Mars Wrigley’s top brass.
Happily, Oakey’s renewed his request to the powers that be met with success. In an email from the company president, he was told the company would go along with whatever the family wanted to do. They also sent Economy’s family 250 packs of Juicy Fruit as a thank you for his lifelong brand loyalty.