When Sammy Oakey, president of Oakey's Funeral Service, was approached by long-time friend, 94-year-old Suttie Economy, requesting a casket designed like a pack of Juicy Fruit gum, he vowed to do whatever he could to make that happen.
"I immediately called Wrigley's, and they immediately said no," he told WSLS 10 News.
After delivering the news to Suttie, Oakey, who has been friends with the Economy family for about 45 years, shared his disappointment on Facebook.
"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," he wrote, expressing his friend's passion for the brand, along with his final wishes.
"Since we are in the profession of carrying out requests, we assured him that we would make this effort. Unfortunately, we were met with immediate resistance from the Wrigley/Mars conglomerate that owns the trademark to Juicy Fruit gum. 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. A follow-up e-mail to Wrigley's asking them to reconsider was not responded to."
The post eventually reached the president of Mars, who sent an email to Oakey — and 250 packs of Juicy Fruit gum by mail — stating the Company was willing to do "whatever the family wanted."
According to the Mars website, During World War II, Wrigley supported US troops by taking Wrigley's Spearmint, Doublemint, and Juicy Fruit off the civilian market and dedicating the entire output of these brands to the US Armed Forces. After returning home from war, Oakey said whenever Suttie came in to visit, he would always bring a bunch of packs of Juicy Fruit chewing gum and put it out for the employees to enjoy.
"He didn't just do that here," said Oakey. "He did it at restaurants and doctor's offices wherever he went."
While decorating a coffin to simulate a pack of chewing gum may seem odd, respecting the final wishes of World War II veteran who risked his life to protect ours is the least we can do to show our appreciation.