Eulogy from Service of Thanksgiving for Ted Cross (8th June, 2011)

There is a time for everything,
A time for war and a time for peace,
A time to plant and a time to uproot,
A time to tear down and a time to build,
A time to mourn and a time to dance,
A time to keep and a time to throw away,
A time to be silent and a time to speak,
A time to be born and a time to die.

Ecclesiastes 3

“I know there is nothing better for men than to be happy and to do good while they live.”

So wrote the author of Ecclesiastes,

Its author (probably Solomon but described as “the Teacher”) is a highly sophisticated student of human nature and in the course of reflecting on how one should live it contains some of the most famous lines in the Bible

  • “There is nothing new under the sun”
  • “Cast your bread upon the waters”
  • “Vanity, Vanity all is Vanity”

Ecclesiastes central theme – which we have just heard – is that man is aware of the infinity of time and of man’s insignificance in it. So what should man do?

The answer is to do good things

The balance, the phlegmatic tone, the melancholy, the wisdom, the wisdom of experience gained in a long and thoughtful life

All strikingly evocative of Ted and his little sayings

And in the course of his long life Ted did so many good things. – did not brag about them – so it has been quite a task to tease them out

There is a time for everything – a time to be born

Edward John Holroyd Cross was born in Kildaire, Ireland 1st November, 1920 to a family of wealthy landowners.

Holroyd is the family name of the Earls of Sheffield a branch of whose family settled in Ireland in the late 18th Century. Such a background would help explain why, when the “Troubles” began in earnest in the early 20’s, the family felt they had to leave.

A time to uproot

They sold up and moved to Ruislip in North West London when Ted was just 2 years old.

Ted’s father turned his energy to property development and his building business was responsible for the development of much of modern Ruislip – this financial success would prove to be the catalyst for Ted’s own business career.

Ted was at school, at St Paul’s – he was no academic and had no fond memories of school.

Instead seemed keen to get going and start to make his mark in the world.

A time to plant

First job was working for his uncle in an aircraft components business called Airspeed on the South Coast.

In a life where everything seems to have been for a purpose this early exposure to an engineering business was later to lead to much greater things.

Battle for Britain looming he joined the RAF and trained to be a pilot – he was very proud of his pilot’s licence.

Ted seems to have been caught up in the emotion of the time.

He met an attractive, vivacious woman 8 years his senior in a local pub in Ruislip – this was Cecily Sparks (whom we know as Celia) and within a few months they were engaged to be married. They would be together for over 60 years.

It was at this time that fate played a hand in changing Ted’s life –

While engaged to Celia, Ted crashed his car into a lamppost, suffering severe injuries to head and face.

It nearly forced postponement of the wedding. This accident and his poor eyesight brought the end of his career as a fighter pilot – which probably saved his life.

A time for war

Instead Ted joined the Army and recuperated through the discipline of basic training.

Selected for officer training and 1942 saw him at Sandhurst in the Royal Armoured Corps.

Recognition of his natural authority and skills in diplomacy meant Ted was transferred to the Military Police where he served in Egypt during the war and then in Palestine – being in Jerusalem when the King David Hotel, the headquarters of the British Mandate, was bombed by Zionist extremists in July 1946 leaving 91 people dead and a further 46 injured.

Ted also served in Europe at the end of the war –

He tried to loot the Reichstag in Berlin but found the Russians had already taken all the good stuff.

Witnessed destruction and brutality in Europe which left a lasting impression

A time for peace and a time to build

Retuned to UK, demobbed it was time to return to a business career.

Initially as a salesman for Birdseye frozen foods.

Keen to get into business for himself. It was then that Ted met with Bob Rodd, owner of Rodd O’Neill, a small metal bashing business based in Sunbury on Thames which had found itself in difficulties.

His father having died in Jan 1940 Ted had been left a small amount of capital.

Rodd needed money and Ted wanted business experience so they went into partnership and formed Rodd Engineering (1950) Limited, the precursor of what would become Rodd Group

Rodd seems to have been more interested in Ted’s money than his ideas and Ted relied on one of the staff, Connie Read to educate him on the fundamentals of the engineering business.

Ted needed a real partner and he found that with engineer Jack Baker who ws introduced by a good friend Frank Smith – of whom more later – Ted persuaded Jack to join Rodd.

With Jack providing the technical expertise Ted could give free rein to his leadership and negotiating skills as Chairman.

The company focused on automotive components building a strong relationship with Ford Motors Europe for whom their made seat slides, widescreen wiper parts and later widgets.

With accountants Everett & Son providing the financial insight Jack and Ted added to the business over 20 years through synergistic acquisitions (like Bridal & Cross steel stockholding) so that when they came to sell the business the Group employed over 500 people and was turning over around £10m pa.

The relationship forged at time with Everett & Sons was to last the remainder of Ted’s life. Geoff Greenhalgh, who is now one of Ted’s executors, first met Ted in 1959 as an audit trainee. He remembers Ted then as being much more approachable than the average Chairman of the Board – Ted had time for everyone, even a 17 year old trainee auditing the Directors’ remuneration. (Probably because – unlike many Chairman – Ted was not abusing his expenses!)

This longstanding relationship with Geoff and Everett is typical of Ted Cross. He appreciated loyalty and returned it with interest. He knew what he liked and liked what he knew.

A time to keep and a time to throw away

As he approached the age of 60, having built a highly successful commercial enterprise, Ted recognised that times were changing – industrial unrest, high inflation and the advent of more aggressive competition as customers started to put pressure on their suppliers to save costs were taking the fun out of Rodd Group. The business was ultimately sold in a typically gentlemanly way with John Harvey acquiring the business over a period of 5 years while Ted and Jack stayed on to provide an orderly transition for customers and employees.

Ted looked for a new interest to engage his time and talents and having always had an eye for pictures which had increased with his friendship with a childless couple Frank and Joyce, who were great art lovers. When they died leaving Ted and Celia a house full of art and antiques Ted decided to open a gallery.

One of the businesses which Rodd had acquired was builders’ merchants, Gordon and Alexander and when Rodd was sold Ted kept their premises at 128 Oaklands Drive, Weybridge.

By the same time of the sale Connie Read was retiring and Ted had taken on a new assistant who happened to have an interest in fine art, Margaret James. Together Ted and Margaret transformed the Oaklands Drive property into the gallery from which many of you here today will have bought pictures.

With more time on his hands Ted also began to put more energy into Celia’s interests with the foundation of the Celia Cross Greyhound Trust which he supported financially, as well as having a great love for the “longtails” themselves – looking after up to six of them at any one time.

Typically of Ted – every time one of these rescued dogs would pass on he would say “that was the best dog I ever had, best dog I ever had.”

Celia was the front man for the organisation with Ted in the background, a Dennis Thatcher figure – the successful businessman with a famous wife. But Ted played an integral part in Celia’s famous fundraising sales – providing auction prizes from the gallery stock and plying all of the helpers with generous quantities of champagne at the end of the day. Must have made it hard to count the money.

Perhaps it was his experience of business practices which led to the announcement after the counting of how much each stall had raised – this created fervent competition amongst the stallholders with each one donating bigger prizes every year to try to raise more money.

A time to dance

Ted and Celia were not blessed with children but when they sold Headley Hall to Bill and Christine Gerhauser in 1978 they moved in to the adjacent property at White Lodge and gained not only new neighbours but a family to boot. The couples shared an interest in racing which saw them enjoy outings to Royal Ascot and Longchamps as well as to watch the greyhounds at Wimbledon and Battersea dogtracks. Ted and Celia became Godparents to Kate and William, the Gerhausers’ children, and were present at every family occasion as well as sharing regular meals out.

Ted liked eating out, he would always start with soup saying “you can tell a good restaurant by its soup”. He especially liked Chinese food , and In fact I first met Ted at Gourmet 38 on Box Hill Road

These were the best of times. But as the author of Ecclesiastes knew, nothing lasts for ever and they had to come to an end.

A time to mourn

Celia became unwell and increasingly infirm and my abiding memory of the two of them together is of tall Ted bent down protectively with his arm around the diminutive, Celia guiding her from the room.

Ted was a gentle man who was a true gentleman.

A time to be silent

Without Celia, Ted, who was never a loud man or an extravert, became increasingly withdrawn. He stopped coming to Christmas lunch at Healey Hall, but instead Stephen would take him up a plate on a tray. We owe a debt to Geoff and Rose, Christine and Elaine and all those who banded together to ensure his last months were spent comfortably and in company.

So we come together today to give thanks today for the long and productive life of Ted Cross with its many acts of generosity. To the Greyhound Trust , the Headley Cricket Club, this Church and the many tradesmen and employees whom he took care of in his own quiet way. Many of them not even realising that he was helping them.

In his modest way Ted thought no one would come to his funeral. It was a rare piece of bad judgement on his part and we see today how wrong he was.

His life touched many, many people, every one of whom he treated justly and graciously.

We remember his wisdom and his character- of fairness and loyalty, his essential goodness.

The author of Ecclesiastes determined that everything was meaningless – work, wisdom, pleasure, everything – if pursued only for its own sake. He could have written Ted’s own motto when he said:

“I know there is nothing better for men than to be happy and to do good while they live.”

Let us pray now that this “gentle man”, may rest in peace. Amen

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