Aureal Theophilus Cross

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Dr. Aureal Theophilus Cross East Lansing Born June 4, 1916, in Findlay, Ohio, with, as he often joked, "'theawfulist' middle name a person could have". On December 1, 2013, he joined Aleen, his beloved late wife of 65 years, and his Lord, Jesus Christ, in eternal life. It is difficult to encapsulate the activities, events, and adventures of his rich, full, energetic, and varied 97 years. His family is deeply thankful for the love and kindness his caregivers, friends, and church family showered upon him during the last few years of his and Mom's lives. Aureal was raised on a dairy farm near Waterloo, Iowa, and developed a work ethic and toughness that was second to none. He could be as prickly as a porcupine on the outside, but he was as soft as a toasted marshmallow on the inside. He went to Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on a history and music scholarship, where he was also an accomplished "miler" in track and ran cross-country. Required to take a science course, he enrolled in a geology class-and the course of his life was set. After graduating in 1939, he moved on to the University of Cincinnati where he obtained an MS degree in botany and a dual PhD in Paleontology and Botany. Due to an arm injury caused by a fall from a horse as a child, he was not eligible for military service in WWII. Instead, he supported the war effort by teaching anatomy, genetics, and microscopic tissue analysis to medical school students and medics at the University of Notre Dame. During that time, while doing fieldwork in Pennsylvania, he contracted a severe case of pneumonia and landed in a Pittsburgh hospital where a cute, young nurse helped take care of him. Smitten, he sent flowers, asked her out for a date (she went!), and he and Aleen were married in 1945. After the war, he joined the faculty at the University of Cincinnati. In 1949, he accepted a position as Professor in the West Virginia University Geology Department, where he was also head of the Coal Division of the West Virginia Geologic and Economic Survey until 1956. After a five-year stint as Senior Research Supervisor of the Palynological Group at Amoco's Pan American Oil Corporation Research Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma, his desire to teach overcame the need to earn money. In 1961, the family relocated to East Lansing, where Dr. Cross was a Professor of Geology, Botany, Paleobotany and Palynology at Michigan State University until his retirement in 1986. He became a professor emeritus and continued doing research until his death. He was a consummate teacher and had over 30 graduate students who obtained their doctorate degrees through his demanding tutelage. He was active at and became a patriarch of First Presbyterian Church in Lansing where, among many other activities, he was on the session, taught adult and youth education, and led numerous mission trips, mostly to Native American reservations, lecturing and teaching the attendees as they traveled. He led and nurtured Boy Scouts, many of whom obtained Eagle rank. The extent of his professional research is legendary with over 150 published articles and books and countless lectures given at meetings of the various professional organizations to which he belonged. His massive fossil plant and fossil pollen collection, much of it collected from around the world with the assistance of his wife, family, and students, is now housed as the centerpiece of the Paleobotany Collection at The Chicago Field Museum of Natural History and is available for other scientists to study. He received many honors and awards from professional organizations for his teaching, research, and publications. He was devoted to his late wife and traveled the world with her, before becoming her primary caretaker in her last years. He is survived by his sister, Avalonne; his children: Timothy (Margaret) of McMinnville, Oregon; Christina (Cliff) Collier of Austin, Texas; Jonathan (Nicolette) of Denver, Colorado; Cheryl (Richard) Bowman, of Bloomfield Hills, Michigan; Christopher (Nancy), also of Denver; fourteen grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. A memorial service will be planned for early summer, 2014. Contributions in his name can be made to The Chicago Field Museum Paleobotany Collection; the First Presbyterian Church, Lansing, Michigan; or to the Dr. Aureal T. Cross Fellowship in the Department of Geological Sciences within the College of Natural Sciences, Michigan State University. The family is being served by Gorsline Runciman Funeral Homes, Lansing Chapel. Condolences and memories may be shared with the family at

Published in Lansing State Journal from Dec. 5 to Dec. 8, 2013
Aureal Theophilus Cross
Click name above for additional details at:
Arrangements under the direction of:
Gorsline Runciman Funeral Homes
1730 East Grand River Ave | East Lansing, MI 48823 | (517) 337-9745
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