Charles T. Cross, diplomat and UW teacher
Charles "Chuck" T. Cross — a career diplomat with the U.S. Foreign Service — was among the country's foremost experts on China. He died Nov. 2 at age 86.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Anytime he received new travel orders, Charles "Chuck" T. Cross — a career diplomat with the U.S. Foreign Service — would gather his family together and announce, "We're going to have a new adventure!"
Fluent in Chinese, Japanese and French, Mr. Cross was among the country's foremost experts on China and spent the bulk of his working life in Asia. After serving with the Marines in the South Pacific during World War II, Mr. Cross recognized the importance of maintaining ties with China, an emerging communist nation in the early 1950s, a time when the rest of America was caught up in the Red Scare.
"He was a diplomat, first and foremost," said Ron Woods, a longtime friend and fellow diplomat who served 30 years in Europe.
While the popular view was that China was "a communist toady," Woods said Mr. Cross understood it was in America's best interest to open up trade and develop "a constructive relationship with the Chinese instead of a confrontational one."
Mr. Cross' attitude proved to be prescient: China is now our second-largest trading partner, according to 2007 U.S. Census Bureau statistics.
Mr. Cross was diagnosed with cancer last year. He improved after having a kidney removed, but doctors discovered a new tumor in September. Surrounded by family members, Mr. Cross died at his longtime home in Seattle's Wedgwood neighborhood on Nov. 2. He was 86.
Mr. Cross was born May 4, 1922, in Beijing (then known as Peking), China, to missionary parents. His mother opened China's first kindergarten in 1919, and his father taught philosophy at the long-defunct Yenching University, his family said. In 1940, when he was 18, Mr. Cross and his parents returned to the U.S. so Mr. Cross could attend university at Carleton College in Minnesota.
On Christmas Day 1940, Mr. Cross went to a relative's house for dinner and was introduced to his cousin's best friend. Shirley Foss was immediately smitten with the "very exciting young man" from China. The couple would eventually marry and have three children — but not before surviving "the longest engagement in history," Shirley Cross said.
That's because Mr. Cross enlisted in the Marine Corps immediately after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941. Trained as an intelligence officer and interpreter of Japanese, Mr. Cross was involved in each of his division's landings — Roi-Namur, Saipan, Tinian and Iwo Jima. In his later years, Mr. Cross would revisit those old battlefields with members of his Marine unit.
After the war, Mr. Cross got married, welcomed his first child, completed his undergraduate degree at Carleton and earned a master's degree from Yale University. He spent the next 32 years crisscrossing the globe, serving as a U.S. representative in Taiwan, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Egypt, Cyprus and England. During the Vietnam War, he was the commanding general's senior civilian deputy, and he was later named U.S. ambassador to Singapore, consul general in Hong Kong and the first director of the American Institute in Taiwan, the unofficial U.S. embassy there. Between foreign assignments, Mr. Cross worked at the State Department in Washington, D.C.
"He promised me an adventurous life, and he really delivered — and he told me he loved me all along the way," said Shirley Cross. "They moved us around a lot, and I never completely unpacked."
Through a series of serendipitous twists, the Crosses arrived here in 1982. Having retired from the Foreign Service, Mr. Cross taught for 10 years at the UW's Jackson School of International Studies.
In addition to his wife, Mr. Cross is survived by daughters Ann Edmonds, of Bellingham, and Kathy Leutner, of Iowa City, Iowa; son Richard Cross, of Marblemount; seven grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.
A funeral Mass will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 22, at Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Church, 8900 35th Ave. N.E. in Seattle. In lieu of flowers, remembrances can be sent to Providence Hospice of Seattle, 425 Pontius Ave. N., Seattle, WA 98109.
Sara Jean Green: 206-515-5654 or email@example.com
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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