Dubbed “the Black Hornet” as a result of his heroic exploits in the Royal Air Force (RAF) in the Second World War, the 96- year-old Cross, died at his Port-of-Spain home yesterday. His daughter Sue Hollick said Cross “died very peacefully at his home, as he wanted; without pain and surrounded by his family.”
Speaking with Newsday at 4.45 pm yesterday, two and a half hours after her father’s passing, Hollick declined to say much more, other than to assure “the family will issue a press release later today.” While Hollick and other relatives were trying to figure out what to say about the death of their loved one, another resident of the four-storey apartment building at 1A Dere Street, Woodbrook, Port-of-Spain, where he lived, shared his memories of this national hero.
“I only knew Justice Cross casually — we usually ran into each other in the lobby. He was a man full of life. He attended cocktail parties regularly, and sometimes he would host social gatherings of his own in his flat on the fourth floor.”
The neighbour, who declined to give his name, recalled Cross being in “pretty good health until earlier this year. In recent weeks, however, he would routinely spend a day or two in hospital and whenever I saw him, he was in a wheelchair.”
Cross’ other daughter, Nicola Cross, apparently lived in Flat 20 with him, helping to care for her ailing father. “I think his family knew the end was near,” the neighbour shared, “because several of them flew in about a week ago, including his daughter Sue, her husband and their daughter. Justice Cross was a really nice man. My condolences go out to his family.”
Cross was also a close friend of this country’s first president, Sir Ellis Clarke who died on December 30, 2010 at the age of 93. In an interview with Newsday on November 25, 2010, Cross said of Sir Ellis who had suffered a stroke at that time: “I hope he (Sir Ellis) will be better. It was a very sad thing to hear because we used to see each other fairly often.
“I used to call him youngster because I was born in May and he in December of the same year,” Cross said.
In an interview the day after, Cross said Sir Ellis sent a message to him through a mutual friend. “He wanted to remind me to attend his birthday party,” Cross stated. Following Sir Ellis’ death, Cross described him as a “towering figure on the TT landscape.”
“A person of that calibre will be difficult to replace,” Cross said in a Sunday Newsday interview that was published on January 2, 2011.
In June 2011, Cross was present at Piarco when the Air Guard Station was formally renamed the Ulric Cross Air Station in his honour. At that ceremony, Air Guard Commanding Officer Tyrone Rudolpho appealed to Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar (who was also in attendance) to consider giving Cross this country’s highest honour, the Order of the Republic of TT. He received that honour in August 2011.
“A true living hero, the Black Hornet as he is known among historians,” said Rudolpho as he recalled Cross’ exploits as a member of the RAF in World War II. Rudolpho said as a member of the elite Pathfinder Force, Cross flew 80 missions and “landed seven times without wheels/landing gear.”
President Anthony Carmona recognised Cross in April at a banquet to mark the 60th Anniversary of the RAF Association (RAFA) of TT in Chaguaramas.
Members of RAFA visited Cross at his Port-of-Spain home to give him a Father’s Day gift in June. Also that month, award-winning Caribbean film-maker Frances-Anne Solomon announced that a documentary inspired by Cross’ life (as a West Indian war hero, jurist and diplomat) will be released in 2014. In a speech at TT’s High Commission in London, Solomon described Cross as “a hero for all time” who will be the central feature in the 75-minute documentary.
Yesterday, there was a flood of condolences from prominent persons in society when news spread of Cross’ passing.
Speaking on the Government’s behalf, Acting Prime Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal said, “ I express condolences to his family members and his dear friends. He was a true patriot and hero. Our nation owes him a debt of gratitude.”
In a statement, Attorney General Anand Ramlogan said, “Cross will be remembered for his brilliant legal mind, but most of all for his service to humanity at the time when TT and the world needed citizens like Justice Cross to step forward for democracy and liberty.”
After listing Cross’ career as a military aviator, legal luminary and diplomat, Ramlogan observed, “Even at an age when others would have retired quietly, Justice Cross in April 1993, founded a charitable non-profit organisation called the Cotton Tree Foundation which partners with civic groups in some of the most depressed communities in East Port-of-Spain.”
He said Cross is on record as stating his mission in life was to work towards combating high levels of poverty and unemployment through counselling, self-help, education and training projects. Ramlogan recalled when Cross celebrated his 90th birthday in 2007, the Ulric Cross Cotton Tree Endowment Fund was launched, “ to expand the work of the Cotton Tree Foundation to include a legal aid clinic, community sports programme and an art and music programme.”
Opposition Senator Faris Al-Rawi said, “I personally had the privilege of knowing Justice Mr Ulric Cross for my whole life.” Saying that Cross’ passing has left the country and the Caribbean “in darkness,” Al-Rawi said Cross had served this country and indeed the region in many capacities.
“His legacy is one that is the subject of legend. The tales of his passage through the colonial experience; World War II, the life of a bombardier; as a lawyer and jurist are awe-inspiring,” he said. Al-Rawi said, “The PNM and the country will celebrate the memory of his excellence.”
TT Defence Force (TTDF) public relations officer, Major Al Alexander said on behalf of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Major General Kenrick Maharaj, the TTDF extended its condolences to Cross’ family and friends on his passing.
“The TTDF has lost a military stalwart and someone who has led the way in aviation,” Alexander stated. Describing Cross as someone who has “led the way” in everything he did in his life, Alexander said Cross was also a legal luminary and a son of the soil. He said the TTDF will issue a formal statement on Cross’ death today.
President of the Retired Justices Association, Justice Zainool Hosein also expressed sadness on learning of Cross’ passing. Hosein said as a student in London, he first met Cross, who was working with the BBC at the time. He recalled that Cross and another gentleman named Ken Ablack were responsible for producing several Caribbean shows for the BBC and one of those was a popular programme named Calling the West Indies.
“Many of the old people would remember that,” Hosein said. He said he got to know Cross better when he practised as an attorney before Cross. Saying many of the older members of the Judiciary knew Cross very well, Hosein said Cross was very supportive of the Association’s efforts. Hosein said, “He had a very good life. To TT, he was one of the very distinguished people of the older generation.” Hosein added that Cross was “very friendly” with his older brother Justice Tajmool Hosein, who died earlier this year. Attorney Rajiv Persad said, “It is a great loss to the people of TT. A truly great hero has left us.”
“He was such a role model to people in this country as to how people could come from humble beginnings and achieve the highest heights. He was a person of integrity it is such a loss.”
Heroes Foundation chairman Phillip Julien said the Foundation would not be what it is today were it not for Cross. Julien said Cross’ involvement in the Foundation, encouraged other national icons such as Pat Bishop and Trevor Bhupsingh (both deceased) to contribute “when it counted the most”.
Recalling a comic book was published highlighting Cross’ career as an example of selfless service, Julien disclosed it will be re-launched when the Foundation holds a convention next week at the National Academy for the Performing Arts (NAPA).
“He always said he did things because they were the right thing to do. He really epitomised that,” Julien said. (See Page 13A)