Christian, Family Man, United States Army Veteran, Sports Enthusiast, Business Executive, and Community Leader Eugene “Gene” Cross, III, 89, of Marion, North Carolina, left this world for his heavenly home on Sunday, January 28, 2024 at Mission Hospital McDowell.
He was born in Marion, North Carolina on October 23, 1934 to the late Eugene Cross, Jr. and Jeannette Gilkey Cross. His wife of 67 years, Virginia McBee Cross, precedes him in death. Of all of his life’s accomplishments, Gene would tell you that his greatest was marrying Virginia; now they are reunited in the presence of the Lord. Virginia has been described as a Proverbs 31 woman; Gene had the good fortune of marrying her.
Driven by a fierce work ethic and high ethical standards, Gene embraced the challenges of leadership at a young age. At 16, he started working in the summers at Cross Mill to learn his family’s textile business from the ground up. At 21, he got married and started a family soon afterwards. At 21, he graduated from N.C. State University with a degree in Textiles and began working full time at Cross Mill under his mentor, Mr. Payne; and under the guidance of his father, Eugene Cross, Jr. At 29, Gene assumed the role of plant manager; by age 42, he was named President of Cross Mills, working alongside his brother John, who was Director of Sales. Another quality of his leadership was that he believed everyone should be treated with respect. For twenty-six years, he was in a senior leadership role in a company with 400 employees and annual sales of $25 million known throughout the industry for producing high quality yarn. In this role he believed it was his responsibility to keep up with the latest technology, provide superior service to customers, produce a top quality product, and treat employees great. Gene continued a tradition of treating employees “like family.” The company ball field, swimming pool, scout troop, and tennis courts were enjoyed by generations of Cross Mill employees and their families. Decades after the business closed in 1990, employees of Cross Mills share fond memories of their time there; which is a tribute to his leadership.
Gene & Virginia worked as a team to raise their children. They poured into their children’s lives, giving them a wonderful childhood and many precious memories; including family vacations, attending sporting events, and weekly family activities. As dedicated as Gene was to his profession, family always came first. Gene was a lifelong member of First United Methodist Church, where he and Virginia served faithfully and attended regularly throughout their adult life. In the past few months, the family greatly appreciates that kindness that has been shown to Gene by Pastor Barbara Mayo and the entire congregation. This past Christmas he received 20 Christmas cards; which thrilled him. Gene enjoyed worship services and seeing the stained glass picture of Jesus in the sanctuary up until the end of his life.
Gene was an Eagle Scout and encouraged – no insisted – that his two sons become Eagle Scouts also. Gene proudly served in the United States Army, obtaining the rank of Captain before being honorably discharged in 1964.
Gene strongly believed you should give back to your community and your profession. He served as President of the McDowell Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors and The Frances Marion Club. He served as President of the nation-wide American Yarn Spinners Association and served regularly on the Board of Directors of the Institute of Textile Technology in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Gene was a lifelong outdoorsman and sports enthusiast. He enjoyed quail hunting, trout fishing, and spending time at Lake Tahoma as he was growing up. He was the Captain, Number 1 tennis player, and MVP of N.C. State’s tennis team during his senior year in 1956. After college, Gene and his bride started playing golf and thoroughly enjoyed the time with their friends at The Marion Lake Club for 65+ years. Gene recorded a hole-in-one at Grandfather Golf & Country Club; his two lowest rounds were 68; and he played in the PGA Kemper Open Pro Am at Quail Hollow Country Club in Charlotte carding a 78. He attended the Masters Golf Tournament over 60 times. Gene participated in slalom ski races at Sugar Mountain Ski Resort into his mid-forties and obtained a Black Belt in Taekwondo at age fifty. Gene & Virginia loved watching ACC football and basketball. In recent years, every Sunday afternoon they could be found in their favorite room in the house, their den, watching the final round of that week’s PGA golf tournament.
Gene is survived by three children: Eugene “Chip” Cross IV (Penny), Paul Cross (Sherry), and Lynn Cross Walker (Erwin); six grandchildren: Benjamin, Rachel, Lucy, Camille, Joseph, Melanie; sister: Jeannette Cross; brothers: John Cross (Becky), Kelly Cross; two sisters-in-law: Marie Geouge and Helen Shimp; four nephews and three nieces.
The family would like to thank Nancy Wheeler, Tracy MaKela, and the staff at Rose Hill Retirement Community for the excellent care they provided for Gene in the past six months; as well as Dr. He, and the staff at Mission Hospital McDowell for the care he received in his last days.
In lieu of flowers, those wishing to make a donation in Gene’s memory could consider these charities near and dear to his heart: First United Methodist Church and Marion Rotary Club Foundation Million Meal March.
A funeral service will be held on Friday, February 2, 2024 at 2:00 p.m. at First United Methodist Church in Marion with Rev. Barbara Mayo officiating. Burial will follow at Bakersville Memorial Cemetery. The family will receive friends from 12:00 noon until 2:00 p.m., two hours prior to the service at the church.