Mysterious crosses appeared along the highways of West Virginia and much of the Southeast in the 1980s and 1990s, in clusters of three, 20 feet tall, the centermost yellow and the others light blue. They are the legacy of the Reverend Bernard L. Coffindaffer of Nicholas County.
Coffindaffer (January 27, 1925-October 8, 1993) was born in Craigsville. He was a Marine in World War II, serving in the Pacific and wounded on Iwo Jima. He became a successful businessman after the war, but his personal life was not successful. In 1966, his troubled marriage ended in divorce. The next year he underwent a profound religious conversion. Despite finding personal salvation, in 1970 he suffered a mental and physical breakdown and found himself hospitalized in the care of psychiatrists. In 1976, he married June Woodrum, a psychiatric nurse. In 1982, Coffindaffer underwent open-heart surgery.
While napping in 1984, he received what he described as a vision of the spirit of God, telling him to erect crosses, first in West Virginia, then in all 50 states. He promptly sold his extensive business interests and founded Cast Thy Bread, Inc., a nonprofit organization whose mission was to erect prefabricated crosses over the countryside. At their peak, almost 1,900 of the cross clusters were found in West Virginia, other states, and abroad.
Further heart troubles in the early 1990s slowed—but didn’t stop—his efforts. However, the millions of dollars he poured into Cast Thy Bread were depleted, forcing an end to cross raising. Coffindaffer died unexpectedly of a heart attack and was buried in Nicholas County, just across the highway from a set of crosses.
Written by Frank P. Herrera