Dr. Clem C. & Mary G. Crossland

Published 6:41 pm Monday, March 21, 2011

It is with profound sadness that we announce the deaths of our beloved parents, Mary and Clem Crossland, who departed this life five days apart during the week of March 14, 2011.

Mary Cecilia Gramch Crossland, adored wife and cherished mother, completed her journey in this life on March 14, in the physical presence and emotional comfort of her husband and children. Her body could not overcome the combined effects of surgery for a fractured hip and the various health issues against which she had struggled so mightily for the past few months. She had reached the point where she could no longer maintain the fierce and full-out pace with which she lived her entire life and she was very clear that she did not want to live with anything less than the full measure. Clem Casper Crossland, adored husband and cherished father, completed his journey in this life on March 19. Our father began his last trip to be with his mate within an hour of her passing, and while she was still beside him in their own bedroom in their own home, surrounded by his children. Although he had borne with courage and grace several physical ailments of age, he simply died of a broken heart. During the last week of their lives, our father proclaimed with the same quiet but assured voice he had always used to convey important information — “Your mother and I are tired from the inside out.” It was our privilege to be holding the hands of each of our parents during the final days and hours of their time here with us. They left as they lived — together, with the lady first.

Our parents had been granted the best of everything one could hope for in this life: a long and meaningful span of years with one devoted mate, a large and devoted family, and a close circle of devoted friends, after completing personally satisfying and important career in the field of medicine. Most especially, they were bequeathed the gift of having five healthy children whom they lived to see become educated and contributing adults, something that is denied to so many mothers and fathers.

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Our mother was born on May 23, 1922, in Cincinnatus, New York, the daughter of Stanley and Cecilia Gramch. Our father was born in Tinley Park, Ill., on July 5, 1922, to Clem and Ruth Crossland, and spent his early childhood in Bradenton, Fla. He attended the University of Florida and, at the tender age of 18, was admitted to the George Washington Medical School. In 1943, while living as a “career girl” in Washington, D.C., and working in the office of the Dean of Medical School of George Washington University, Mary Gramch met her future husband, Clem Crossland, who was a third-year medical student. They married in 1944 on Nov. 27 and were anticipating the celebration of their 67th anniversary this year. Following a term of service in the U.S. Army that included a posting to Trieste, Italy, the young couple returned to the Commonwealth of Virginia at Camp Pickett. Following his discharge from the military, our father commenced his professional life as a General Practitioner of Medicine, first in the town of Crewe, and two years later, in 1953, in the town of Holland.

Our parents intentionally chose to live in a rural area as a way of keeping their children rooted with a sense of community, a defined purpose, the joys of outdoor life, and the opportunities to participate in the tending of a menagerie of livestock and pets. Our parents were true and lifelong partners in the two greatest enterprises they undertook — practicing medicine and rearing their children. Except for the brief period of military service and a few nights when one of them was in the hospital over the years, our parents spent every single day in the presence of each other. Throughout her life, our mother reminded us daily of the admonition from St. Luke: “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.” Our father was the gentlest, kindest and most considerate soul to occupy the planet earth, and certainly who will ever occupy our lives, hearts and memories. He was an intellectually brilliant and personally humble man who was a superb diagnostician of conditions of both the body and soul. He was unfailingly polite to everyone and grateful for every aspect of his life. In every action he took and each word he spoke, he exemplified what it means to live the good life. Our parents were devoted to their patients and dispensed care, medications and comfort with equal measures of respect and tenderness. They instilled in us courage, confidence, curiosity and compassion, the core values that will enable us to face our future despite the immeasurable loneliness that each of us will feel.

We, as their children, hope we have been and will continue to be a source of pride to our parents. We also hope that the careers we have chosen and the manner in which we conduct ourselves has and always will reflect honorably on our parents’ names and on the community that helped in our upbringing.

Our mother and our father were the last surviving members of their immediate families. They leave a special lifelong friend whom they selected as the Godmother to all five of their children, Albena Rose Cammarata, of Ansonia, Conn.

Our parents are survived by their five children: Dr. Stanley Gramch Crossland, of Annandale, Va.; Dr. Cathy Lee Crossland, of Raleigh, N.C., Dr. Stephen Paul Crossland (wife, Sue), of LaVale, Md., and Richmond, Va.; Sharon Ann Crossland, of Richmond, Va., and Mary Christine Crossland, of Richmond Va. They also leave to contemplate their memory and influence seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

The Crossland family wishes to express its profound gratitude to the persons in Carrsville and the surrounding small towns and communities who provided such a splendidly happy and secure life for all of us. We appreciate those who remained steadfast friends beyond the time when our parents relocated to be closer to their two daughters in Richmond when their health no longer permitted the rigors of a solo medical practice after more than 50 years in the same community. To the very end, our mother described our father and herself as “country mice, not city mice.”

The Crossland girls (Cathy, Sharon and Mary) wish to express their deep gratitude to their brother Stephen, who served in the role as the primary care physician for our parents for several years and whose continuous presence and ministering to their needs and that of his sisters made the past two weeks bearable for each of us. We wish to publicly acknowledge the presence and endless contributions of our nephew, Stephen Crossland Jr., who brought such sustained happiness to our parents’ lives during the time he lived beside them in Richmond and who was with each of his grandparents during their final hours, accepting with grace, generosity and maturity the witnessing of the end of their remarkable lives. We are also grateful to Dr. James A. (“Tommy”) Thompson, Dr. Kim Harris and Dr. Glen Giessel for bestowing on our parents for several years the same level of exquisite care that our parents provided to their own patients. They treated our parents with respect and kindness and a level of competence that allowed us to have them in our lives far longer than most adult children have their parents.

There are some debts that are so enormous that they can never be repaid in full, even in a small measure — and the devotion of one’s family is one of those. In honor of our parents, we ask that each of you pay it forward by treating your own loved ones with dignity, kindness and compassionate care for as long as you have the strength and resources, for you will not regret a day that you do so.

The family will receive friends on Wednesday, March 23 between 4 and 6 p.m. at Wright Funeral Home in Franklin, Va. A private family funeral and burial service has been scheduled.

Dear Lord, have mercy on our parents’ souls and treat them kindly.