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Dr. Nancy Jewell Cross
Nancy Cross lived for many years in our University Park neighborhood. Her home was a double lot on the NW corner of Palo Alto Way and Vine St. The following was published in the San Francisco Chronicle Sunday 5/22
Nancy Jewell Cross June 4, 1920 - March 8, 2022
Dr. Nancy Jewell Cross passed away peacefully during the early morning hours of March 8, 2022, under the loving care of personnel at Laguna Hospital and Rehabilitation Center in San Francisco, California. Her niece, Nancy Boyer, was at her bedside during the prior week, when Nancy Cross delighted in last moments of life, enjoying playful games, organic foods, colorful spring flowers, and company of loving people. At age 101, her mind was alert and active to the end.
Nancy Cross was born June 4,1920, in Chicago, Illinois. When she was about six, her family moved to the Bay Area. She spent her elementary years in Berkeley and her high school years in Palo Alto and Menlo Park. After receiving a bachelor’s degree from Vassar College in 1940 and a PhD in chemistry and physics from Stanford in 1947, she taught at University of Chicago and New York University before returning to Menlo Park to be with her parents. She enjoyed the last 28 years of her life in her beloved San Francisco and neighboring East Bay.
Nancy ran for public office many times, even for U.S. Senate, U.S. House of Representatives, and California’s Attorney General. In 1998, she was elected Alameda-Contra Costa Transit Director, unseating an incumbent. Notably, she biked to Transit Board meetings.
Her campaign literature states that she is the author of two books, Questions in the Physical Sciences and Understanding Modern Science and that during her graduate work, she held a DuPont Fellowship in chemistry and had summer industrial employment with the Stanolind Oil and Gas Company.
Her doctoral thesis was on tracer studies with radioactive carbon, and she did medical research with a Nobel Prize winner.
In the 1960’s she worked tirelessly to expand public transit in the Menlo Park and Palo Alto areas, alerting community leaders by letter and speaking at public meetings. In her latter years, Nancy Cross was renowned for her daily visits to a law library or the San Francisco public library. Her research continued until she suffered a stroke in August 2018.
Under the wonderful care of the Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, she enjoyed almost complete recovery and was then admitted as a resident at age 98 to Laguna Honda Hospital and Rehabilitation Center, where she especially enjoyed the farm, gym, library, and medical clowns.
A self-proclaimed “people’s advocate”, she was notorious for the numerous lawsuits she filed, such as to oppose the use of allegedly-toxic air fresheners in public bathrooms, alleged nepotism by public administrators, gender quotas in university admissions criteria, and rerouting of San Francisquito Creek, near her parents’ home.
She was passionate about tenants’ rights, clean government, and the environment. Among her friends and relatives, it is unknown whether she ever won a lawsuit. However, she won the hearts of an amazing group of friends. To know them is to know angels on earth.
She is survived by friends Annie Shebanow, Ann Lambrecht, Henry Laurence, Amanda Fried, and Sonia Sylva, as well as seven nieces and nephews, nine grandnieces and nephews, and one great-grandnephew. She is pre-deceased by her sisters, Mariamne Finley Cross Fulton and Olivia Cross Davies, and her parents, Mariamne (Dorothy) Hawkins Cross and William Thomas Cross. Memories of Nancy Cross’s keen intellect, devotion to public welfare, spirit of pure joy, and pleasures of life will endure. Family and friends scattered her ashes at the end of McKennan Gulch Trail, a beautiful hillside of Mt. Tamalpais State Park, after a walk at Muir Woods and brunch by the water in Sausalito to celebrate especially memorable, wonderful days with her.
If you wish to make a contribution to honor her life, suggestions include The Sanctuary, a shelter run by Episcopal Community Services where Nancy Cross spent years of her life; Bay Area Legal Aid; Save The Bay; the Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco; or the Western Regional Advocacy Project.