Jean Cross had a very good 95th birthday on April 22, 2014, but sadly her heart, worn out, stopped beating days later on April 27.
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Jean Gladys Eckhardt was born in 1919 in State Center, Iowa, as the first child of Walter Edward Eckhardt (insurance agent and tax preparer) and Irma Marie Seberg (homemaker). Her siblings born after her were Betty and Edward. Growing up in State Center, she graduated from State Center High School in 1936 as valedictorian of her class. Jean often mentioned that, living in a very small Iowa farming community, she was related to over half of the persons in her graduating class.
After two years at Marshalltown, Iowa, junior college she matriculated to the University of Iowa. She graduated in 1940 with a BA in Mathematics. Along with graduation, the highlight of those two years was meeting the love of her life, Jerome Ryland Cross, at a spring dance in the Women's Gym in Iowa City. Jerome went on to employment as an actuary with Metropolitan Life Insurance Co., New York, NY.
Her first job was teaching mathematics in the Hiteman, Iowa, schools. It was very unusual for a woman to teach mathematics in 1940. Jean remembers getting the job involved walking across a field to talk to the school board president who was sitting on his tractor. The next year she moved to a teaching position in Marion, Iowa, but left because teachers were not allowed to be married at that time.
She married Jerome on October 9, 1942, in Columbus, Mississippi, while awaiting his orders after enlisting in the Army Air Corps. After their son was born in November 1943, Jerome died in January 1944 in a collision of military aircraft over Louisiana.
After a long period of grieving, Jean moved with her son to Iowa City, Iowa, to pursue a graduate degree, graduating in 1950 with a Masters in guidance and counseling. She then moved to Vinton, Iowa, where she taught junior high mathematics until 1962, when she became the high school guidance counselor in Vinton. She was a math teacher and counselor for both her son and her future daughter-in-law in Vinton. Thereafter, she was a junior high and senior high counselor in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, until retirement in 1984.
After moving to Longmont, Colorado, in 1984 she enjoyed 30 years of retirement with friends, on the golf course, at the bridge table, and traveling.
My mother had five passions during her life. The first was her family. It was always important for family to gather whenever possible. While working in Iowa she traveled frequently to Colorado to be a significant presence in the lives of her grandchildren. I also remember the two-month long summer road trips during my youth when no relative was too far off the highway for us not to detour and visit.
A second passion was golf. It was her "get-away" from work in Iowa and a joyful way to exercise and enjoy friendships during retirement. She has very proud of the trophies she won in both Vinton and at Sunset Golf Course in Longmont.
A third passion was reading. I think she had to be one of the best customers Book-of-the-Month-Club ever had. She did not care what books came each month – she read them all. I know about them because I helped move so many boxes of books more than once.
A fourth passion was travel. She took me to almost all of the then 48 states before I graduated from high school. She traveled to numerous countries, including taking her mother to Sweden to visit where Irma's parents immigrated from. Her travel was topped off by her life-long dream of a month long trip around the world in 2000, including Asia, Africa, and Europe. But she also frequently mentioned that she never got to Antarctica.
Her most fervent passion was her husband of 15 months, Jerome. For her remaining 70 years she loved him, missed him, was devoted to his memory, and considered herself still married. Most important to me is that she kept alive for me the father I never knew.
Her activities in life were numerous. She was a member for most of her life of the National Education Association and local education associations, two national (and local) guidance and counseling associations, American Association of University Women, League of Women Voters, University of Iowa Alumni Association, and Alpha Delta Kappa (an international organization of women educators). She was a member and president of the Longmont Senior Center Senior Citizens Advisory Board, of the Boulder County Agency on Aging Advisory Council, and of the St. Vrain Chapter of AARP. For many years she presented a retirement program for newly retiring teachers through the St. Vrain Valley School District. She was active in Republican Party politics throughout her life. She was active in the Sunset Golf Course women's 9-hole league for most of her retirement years.
Her family, who will always remember her and miss her, are me, her son, Jerome II and my wife Sherry of Longmont, Colorado, her grandchildren Jerome III and wife Anne of Colorado Springs, Colorado, and Sara and husband Warren Walcher of Fruita, Colorado, and her great-grandchildren Elaine of Colorado Springs, Cory and Dustin of Fruita, and Christopher of Phoenix. She is also survived by her husband's brother, Dr. Theodore Cross and wife Nancy, and numerous nieces and nephews. Her parents, her siblings, Betty O'Malley and Edward Eckhardt, and her husband's brother, John Cross, preceded her in death.
Her remains will be buried next to her husband in Cedar Falls, Iowa. The immediate family will celebrate her life in a private event in the near future. Any one desiring to honor Jean's life and activity in Longmont may make a memorial donation to the Longmont Senior Citizen's Center, 910 Longs Peak Avenue, Longmont, CO 80501 (may also be sent in care of Ahlberg Funeral Chapel, 326 Terry Street, Longmont, CO 80501).
Visit www.ahlbergfuneralchapel.com to share condolences.
Ahlberg Funeral Chapel
326 Terry Street
Longmont, CO 80501
Published in Cedar Valley Daily Times on May 8, 2014