In war, Bonham Cross helped his nation and lost some hearing; in peace, he helped Minnesotans, who suffer hearing loss.
By BEN COHEN, Star Tribune; Last update: April 28, 2008
Bonham Cross of Minneapolis was a former World War II bomber pilot whose own hearing loss led him to help Minnesotans with hearing problems.
Cross, who received the Virginia McKnight Binger Award in Human Service in 2002, died April 20 in Minneapolis. The longtime Minnetonka resident was 87.
Like many air crew members in the war, the bomber pilot suffered hearing loss. A case of scarlet fever and the malaria he got in the Army Air Forces contributed to the loss.
After he retired from a newspaper career, first as a news photographer and later as an advertising salesman, he served as a volunteer with a raft of organizations to better the life of those with hearing problems.
Cross, who possessed creative and technical skills, took existing technology and adapted it so people with hearing aids could hear well at public gatherings. “Bonham Cross was the type of person you met once and you were a friend for life,” said Rich Diedrichsen, a regional manager of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services in the state Department of Human Services.
Cross continually experimented with wiring, transmitters, microphones and such.
“He was my guru in assistive listening devices,” said Dr. Sandy Peck, audiologist at St. Cloud’s Veterans Administration Medical Center.
“He was so warm and accepting,” said Peck. “His eyes would dance as he was describing technology.”
He led the Minnesota Council for the Hearing Impaired for a few years in the 1980s and 1990s and played leadership roles in other groups, such as the Hearing Loss Association of America and the International Deaf Pilots Association.
In 1987, he was named Man of the Year by the Minnesota Association of Deaf Citizens.
When he won the McKnight Binger Award in 2002, he was cited for helping to persuade the Legislature to establish the TTY text-messaging system that enables the deaf to communicate over the phone.
In 1939, he graduated from Minneapolis’ Washburn High School, next attending the University of Minnesota, studying science and business.
He left college to become a pilot-cadet in Glendale, Ariz. There the military had the trainees send biographies to their hometown newspapers. At 22, he wrote that he planned to fly and be a photographer after the war. In the war, he flew bombing missions, primarily over Italy in a B-25. He was based on the island of Corsica.
After being decorated with a couple of air medals and the Distinguished Flying Cross, he returned to the Twin Cities, becoming a news photographer.
His son, David, of Shorewood, said his father was particularly moved by an assignment covering the segregated South with columnist Carl Rowan in the 1950s for a predecessor newspaper of the Star Tribune.
In addition to his son, he is survived by his wife of 63 years, Marie of Minneapolis; a daughter, Randi Lawrence of Boston, and three grandchildren. Services have been held.