William Seth Cross Jr.

Published 5:07 pm Thursday, September 1, 2022

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William Seth Cross Jr. died Thursday, Aug. 25, 2022, at age 102. In the opinion of his loving and proud family, he was an icon of the Greatest Generation.

Born Dec. 6, 1919, and raised in Suffolk, he was the son of William Seth Cross and Grace Vanderslice Cross, and surely a product of that Old South small town – where family and church were centric. Bill thrived there among a large extended family, worked every summer and delivered papers before or after school to save for college, and earned his Boy Scout Eagle award.

And then the Great Depression arrived and ultimately bankrupted his father’s prosperous wholesale produce business. His large family home was adapted to become a boarding house and his college savings were wiped out. Just two weeks before college classes were to begin, Dad received a $100 tuition grant from the state of Virginia, enabling him to enroll at Virginia Tech.

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His most notable accomplishment as a first-year was to win the heart and hand of Longwood student Faye Louise Brandon, also from Suffolk. They were married in their junior years. Bill was well-suited for the Corps of Cadets and served as Bugle editor and captain of his battery in his senior year while earning his degree in Industrial Engineering and an Army commission as Second Lieutenant. The entire class of 1941 was called to active duty and he was sent overseas within a year.

While serving in the European Theatre, Bill landed on Omaha Beach in Normandy on D-Day+2 and was on the Elbe River in Germany when the war ended. As an artillery officer, he was awarded a Bronze Star and five battle stars. He remained in the Army Reserve and retired after 20 years of service, with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

Post-war, the family, now with two children, moved to Greensboro N.C., and in 1954 our father founded Cross Sales & Engineering Company, a distributor of hydraulic, pneumatic and electronic equipment for manufacturing machinery. Dad was proud to earn the certification of Professional Engineer and his knowledge and experience were welcomed in plants throughout the Carolinas and Virginias. 

That two-person start-up, now known as Cross Company, is still dedicated to applying technical knowledge for automation solutions. Most importantly to its founder, CrossCo is a 100% 450 plus employee-owned organization, a remarkable success and an ideal example of the ] American Dream. 

As his enterprise grew and stabilized, Dad evolved from an excellent engineer to a valued consultative sales representative to an extremely savvy businessman. His year in the Executive Program at UNC was an enlightening experience which informed his leadership instincts and personal values. He was a lifelong learner and voracious reader.

As his circumstances allowed, Dad engaged in local civic affairs. He was president of Summit Rotary Club (and Paul Harris Fellow), vice-president of the Greensboro Chamber of Commerce, Vice Chair of the Greensboro Human Relations Commission, and national president of the Fluid Power Distributors Association. He served as Chairman of the NC Product Liability (reform) Task Force. He was a member of Starmount Forest Country Club and Fiddlesticks Country Club in Florida. Yet by his own admission, he was a terrible golfer.

Always active at Grace United Methodist Church, he served in many leadership capacities and taught a Sunday School class for 48 years.

A member of the UT Prosim Society at VA Tech, our father was honored as Distinguished Engineering Alumnus in 1990 and in 1999 was inducted into VA Tech’s Academy of Engineering Excellence.

Dad was preceded in death by his parents; our mother, his wife of 53 years, Faye Brandon Cross; their first child, Patricia Brandon Cross and his sister Anne Cross Pearce. He was remarkably lucky in love again when he met and married Ellen Ann Flythe, now deceased. They would both be eager to appreciate all the remarkable caregivers ensuring their home, health and lifestyle at Well-Spring Community were so enjoyable.

When you live to be 102, there can be a lot of grandchildren and great-grandchildren; his progeny number is 30. Bill Cross (Dad’n to them) loved them all enthusiastically, and they knew it. He is most immediately survived by three children: William S. (Pete) Cross lll and wife, Pat; Nancy Cross Armfield and husband, Dan; and Kathy Cross.

His life’s joy was his family and his valued associates at Cross Company.

The family will gather for a private inurnment service the morning of Oct. 1, 2022. That afternoon there will be a celebration of Bill’s life at 2 p.m. at Well-Spring Community in the Virginia Sutton Auditorium – followed by a reception.

Our father was always acutely aware and very concerned about the health of the planet we are leaving to our descendants. In lieu of flowers, please consider a memorial gift to an effective environmental organization that works to preserve the quality and abundance of water in the world.

Fond memories and expressions of sympathy may be shared at haneslineberryfhnorthelm.com for the Cross family.