Ann Cross remembered for dedication to conservation
Foothills: Legacy lives on in educationprograms at Cross Conservation Area
By: Don Patterson
| Posted: Wednesday, Jan 23, 2013 01:28 pm
The Foothills has lost a renowned philanthropist, a strong supporter of education and a friend, but her legacy will live on at the Ann and Sandy Cross Conservation Area.
Veronica Ann Abbott Cross passed away on Jan. 20 at the Sarcee Hospice in Calgary at the age of 92.
For her family, Ann Cross was a great mother who
valued integrity and lived life with all her heart.
“We were raised by a giant, she was a giant,” said Marshall Abbott, Ann's son and a Priddis-area resident.
The work of Ann and her husband Alexander Rothney “Sandy” Cross to protect the land they called home will resound for generations to come. The couple created the Ann and Sandy Cross Conservation Area in 1987 on the south side of Highway 22X east of Priddis.
Abbott said it was important to his mother the area be used to help educate people about the land and environment. To date, the area has hosted approximately 100,000 school children with its educational programs.
“She really insisted on the educational aspect and getting the schools to actively participate and become a key component of what the conservancy is all about,” said Abbott.
The conservation area was created in 1987 with the donation of 2,000 acres of land from Sandy Cross' vast ranch. They then donated an additional 2,800 acres of land bringing the total size of the conservation area up to 4,800 acres.
Abbott said both Ann and Sandy cared deeply about the land and wildlife on the site and they wanted to ensure it would never be developed.
“Sandy had a vision for this land and he was very cognizant of the development that was taking place in the MD (of Foothills),” he said.
In addition to the creation of the conservation area, Ann and Sandy supported a number of other community projects in the foothills area including the Oilfields Arena in Black Diamond and the University of Calgary's Rothney Observatory.
Ann was born in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan in 1920 and moved to a farm near North Battleford when she was seven years old. She was trained as a nurse and a lab technician.
She married her first husband, Brian Abbott, in 1948 and they had five children together. They moved to Calgary in 1953 before Abbott died of a stroke. After his death, Ann chose to stay at home to raise her children and she found success investing in the stock market.
“Mom had quite an eye for the market,” said Abbott.
Fourteen years after her first husband died, Ann met Sandy during a hiking trip in Banff organized by mutual friends.
According to Abbott, his mother had many suitors over the years and each faced a difficult test from himself and his four siblings. Sandy passed with flying colours.
“It would be like going through a gauntlet,” he said. “We fended off most of them, but Sandy charmed us all.”
The pair eventually married at the Christ Anglican Church in Millarville in 1974.
The two lived in Sandy's log cabin on the Rothney Farm before moving to a new home on the western slopes of the property east of Highway 22 where they lived until moving to Victoria, B.C. Ann lived in Victoria for several years after Sandy died in 2003 before moving back to Calgary where she lived out the rest of her life.
According to Foothills author Bruce Masterman the two actually first crossed paths years before they met in person.
Masterman, author of a 2002 book “Paradise Preserved, the Ann and Sandy Cross Conservation Area”, said Ann's first husband pointed out Sandy to her at a bull auction at the Calgary Stampede grounds. However, they never met in person until the fateful hiking trip in the mountains.
Masterman said it was important to Ann to ensure the land she and Sandy Cross called home remain undeveloped.
In his book, Masterman quotes Ann as calling the conservation area a gift to protect the land for the future.
“I think it's a good thing, I really do,” she said. “It's a real gift. It should be looked after. Because I grew up in the country and lived the city life, I can see what's going on with all that beautiful country being ripped up.”
According to Masterman, the Cross Conservation Area has become a model for other land trusts and groups in creating conservation easements.
“It sort of got people thinking beyond just selling the land and pocketing the money from it,” he said. “It got people thinking that land can be more valuable when it's preserved for future generations and wildlife.”
Funeral services for Ann Cross will be held on Saturday, Jan. 26 at 1 p.m. at Christ Anglican Church in Millarville.