103-year-old’s busy life remembered by church warden’s family and friends

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The busy life of a church warden and poultry farmer was fondly recalled after his death this week at the age of 103.

Harvey Cross continued to work into his nineties and was a church warden for 69 years, often helping out after a day spent tending his chickens at Dale Abbey, near Ilkeston.

His son-in-law David Troop, 77, said: “People tell you not to eat this and not to eat that but living in the country, he ate fat meat, butter and sugar. He would never eat margarine - he thought that was criminal.

“In many ways, he lived for the church, he really did. If things needed organising or repairing, he would sort it out.”

Mr Cross began to attend the 12th century All Saints’ Church, Dale Abbey soon after his family moved into the parish from Smalley when he was a child.

His grandfather was manager of a drift mine in the village and his father was the overman. When the colliery closed, they moved into farming.

In 1939, Mr Cross had a house built on Spondon Road, Dale Abbey, with the poultry farm in fields nearby. He lived there until a few weeks ago when his doctor advised him to move into a care home rather than face another winter alone. He died in the home on Monday evening.

The Rev Ian Gooding, rector of Dale Abbey, said: “He was a wonderful friend, colleague, servant of the church and a fountain of wisdom.

“He was somebody I looked up to and had known him for almost 35 years. He was a remarkable church servant and did a lot for the community as well.

“He was a church warden until he was 100 and that length of service must have been a record. He was not one to publicise his achievements.”

Mr Cross married Christabel who died about 20 years ago. They had one child, daughter Dawn Troop, who lives in Kirk Hallam.

Her husband said: “He had many memories of Dale Abbey and when you go into the village from Hagg House, there’s a copse on the right.

“When he was 14, he helped his father plant that copse. That’s the sort of history he knew because his long-term memory was fantastic.”

Last year, Mr Cross was given Maundy money by the Queen who visited Derby Cathedral for the 800th anniversary of the ceremony. He also received a community award from Erewash Borough Council.

While in the fields, he often used to watch the planes heading for East Midlands Airport.

“He said he wondered what it was like to be up there so on his 90th birthday we took him to Jersey. It was only a 40-minute journey in case he didn’t like it.

“But he did so we got him a passport and took him to Minorca the next year. He enjoyed it and was not at all concerned,” added Mr Troop.