ANDERSON, Ind. — As mourners attended visitation services for Larry Van Ness Wednesday afternoon, they shared an impressive tangible tribute: hundreds of thousands of pop tabs collected to honor Larry's legacy.
It's a project the Anderson community has taken on over the past week, to pay it forward in his name.
Across Madison County, customers and community members are paying tribute to a local legend.
Collection points for pop tabs sprung up at about two dozen restaurants, shops and businesses over the past week or so.
In the BYOB Restaurant, people are sharing donations -- and memories of Van Ness, who was better known around town as "The Can Man."
"You would see him walking around everywhere," recalled Mike Spaulding. "He always had a smile, and I mean a big smile."
"The Can Man, yep," added Cody Looper. "I think it's awesome that people are acknowledging who we was, what he did and that it's going to go on."
"I just came to know him as The Can Man, just like everybody did," added BYOB chef Datwaon Collier. "He had a great heart, huge heart. He made a big impact on everyone's life and it's just sad to see him go. Superhero."
Van Ness spent his life giving back to others. He passed away last week from injuries suffered in a car accident.
Now, as the community prepares to lay him to rest on Thursday, they're honoring "The Can Man" by the bag and bucketful.
"Even after his death he is receiving so much love," said Larry's best friend, Rachel Landers. "He was one of my best friends and in a way, it's a way to connect with Larry."
"This was important to him and it helps the kids and that's important to everyone and so it's a great cause and we just wanna keep it going," added Denise Hurlock, who works at The Emporium 1101 flea market, which collected hundreds of pop tabs.
"Larry had a big heart for children. This is not gonna end with him. We're going to help it grow even bigger," Landers said.
Larry spent almost two decades collecting 26 million pop tabs for the Ronald McDonald House so kids and parents can be close during hospital stays.
The goal now?
Finish his mission.
"Everybody wants to get him to that 27 million mark," Landers said.
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Friend Jerry Farmer put a big dent in the numbers with his donation, brought to visitation services.
"There's now 112 pounds and four ounces," Farmer pointed out as he lugged bag after bag out of the trunk of his truck. "That comes to over 131,000 tabs! And that's just the start of what's gonna be inside."
He was right.
As mourners filed into the funeral home late Wednesday afternoon, most were carrying bags of pop tabs.
A donation bucket overflowed in the vestibule just a half-hour into the visitation services.
"It's still hurts, though," Farmer said. "I wish Larry was here to be able to see them all."
But that collection says something about Larry Van Ness. He meant something to this community, and they -- to him.
If the mark of a man's life can be measured in metal, "The Can Man" clearly impacted millions.
People in Anderson are now making sure Larry's legacy lives on.
"This won't end," Farmer said. "This won't end."
Landers said they plan to collect tabs, just like Larry, for as long as they can.
The Ronald McDonald House in Indianapolis, meanwhile, is working on plans for its own tribute to "The Can Man."
One way they plan to honor him this week will be at their annual gala. A table will be kept empty that night, reserved for Larry Van Ness.
Funeral services for Van Ness will be held at Rozelle-Johnson Funeral Service at 10 a.m. on Thursday, Nov. 3.