Wednesday, September 27, 2017



            DALLAS -- What can I say about Tony Cross? Fortunately, I wasn’t asked to say anything. His brother, friends, and a church of Christ preacher did a much better job than I could in describing the life and times of Kay’s 33 year-old nephew.
            One young lady described Tony as loud, loving and fun. He was definitely all of those, but the “loud” part stood out more for me. When Tony was a kid, you had to watch him. Watch him close. Had I been his first grade teacher, I would’ve demanded home schooling for the lad.
When ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder) was invented, the condition immediately attached itself to Tony, which explained why he was the bane of some instructors and the target of many bullies. Tony had no awareness of his trouble making. He just finished his assignments quickly and then started visiting with the rest of the class.
I must say, I didn’t exactly light-up at the thought of Tony’s presence during his early years. He was big into computers, which meant I didn’t understand half of what he said. He enjoyed computer games so much that after getting a degree in, uh, computer stuff, he got a job working for a company that created computer games.
When he tried to explain about a project he was working on, I’d zone out after the second sentence. One technical thing I did enjoy hearing about was how he would use something called “motion capture” in creating the illusion of animated characters convincingly running, walking, stumbling, smiling, crying, laughing…  I believe he could’ve used more basic terminology in explaining the technique to me, but I still managed to catch on to some of what he said,
Fortunately, Tony was into football, pretty much favoring the same teams I did. He also kept up with politics and current events, which allowed me to involve myself into some of our conversations. Tony was one of few people I could disagree with about politics without either of us getting ticked off at the other. He didn’t have a mean bone in his body. They were mostly funny bones.
            As previously mentioned, I learned most about Tony from those who spoke at his Memorial Service. In some of the Power Point photos that were displayed, Tony was dressed up like a Viking. I had no idea he was into Viking reenactment events. I didn’t even know there was such a thing.  
            One of his friends recalled how he and Tony were once driving somewhere in Dallas. As the usual Tony was in mid-conversation. Suddenly, he pulled the car over to the curb and told his friend he’d be back in a minute. Then he jumped out and ran over to help a family that was struggling to get a couch up to the second floor of an apartment. The big lug not only liked people, he took time to notice them.
            Just about everyone who spoke said that Tony was the life of every party. It was said that he would “Tony up” any gathering. He had a quick mind that generally went ahead of his talking. He was curious, engaging and adventurous. He had one of those jeeps that can practically climb a cliff. Many of the photos displayed during the service gave evidence to practically everything that was said about Tony.
            I most appreciated the comments Tony’s brother, Steven, made about their childhood days. Reminded me of when Dennis and I were kids. Steven’s stories were for the most part humorous, and still made me shed nearly as many tears as Steven did in the telling.
            After the service, Kay’s family had a cramped gathering in the hotel room of one of the cousins. The complications getting to the airport in Seattle, the flight to Dallas, the car rental problems, difficulty reaching the church building where the service was held, and the emotions stirred during the service made me question my mental fitness for the gathering. Unlike Tony, I’ve seldom been considered the life of any party.
            I rode with Jill back to the hotel room. Jill had met Tony two Christmases past, and was flabbergasted at how much he reminded her of her son, Ethan. She and Tony just seemed to click. She insisted on driving up from LaPorte to join Kay and me in Dallas. It was so good to have her there.
            Tomorrow, we’ll all go our separate ways. Kay and I plan to drive back with Jill to LaPorte, stopping off in Conroe to check on the construction of our new home. We’ll stay the night with Jill, and then fly back to Washington. We’ll take advantage of more time with our family and friends in the Northwest.
             The past two weeks have been a disturbing time from all involved. One day we were worried about forest fires, and then we get the call from Kay’s brother, Mike, about Tony being one of the victims of the mass shooting in Plano. Tony was with friends in preparation for the Dallas Cowboys’ game, when the ex-husband of one Tony’s friends walked in and murdered his ex-wife, and seven others, one of whom was Kay’s nephew, Tony.
            During the Memorial Service there was little mention of the horror of that day. All of the right words were said. No one attempted to find meaning in the happening. They couldn’t if they tried. The only thought that gives me a sense comfort comes from a passage found in Psalm 31. – “As for me, I trust in you, O Lord. I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in your hands.” – Yes, heaven has been Tonied up.

Mark can be contacted at An archive of Hayter’s articles can be found at

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