Wednesday Dec. 31 2008 • Today's Herald Tribune has an obituary for my friend Tom Cross. Tom was not a close friend of mine, but he was a good friend and good ally. We got to know each other and work together on the Oaks and Midnight Pass. I think I was lumped in with Tom and Rob Patten (who who knows who else) as "the bearded boys and banjo players" that "criped the bejabbers" out of curmudgeonly elder environmentalist Jim Neville. Jim and Fred Duisberg were some of the early defenders the coast and didn't always see eye to eye with us upstart "young" allies.
I knew Tom as a goldsmith from upstate New York who bonded with Sarasota and started a career in computer-assisted illustration. Tom was the first person I knew who could successfully blend photographs and illustration in Adobe Photoshop. He spent years, professionally and as a volunteer, using illustration (and video) to inform citizens about this region's barrier islands and bays. Tom and I collaborated on a user's map of Sarasota Bay. I got it started in Adobe Illustrator and Tom eventually rescued me and finished the project. We need more artists committed to illuminating our natural environment, people willing to write and illustrate works such as : A Field Guide to Trapped Magic: Water.
My big regret is that he didn't live to see resolution of the Midnight Pass issue. Tom was centrally involved in the closing and (together with Dave Jemison) they documented the story of the ill-fated pass closure.
His ability to communicate reformed itself in his half-decade long epic contest with lung cancer, his unearned nemesis. Rather than hiding, he approached it openly, with humor, and kept many people informed not only about his status, but the cruel realities of lung cancer unrelated to smoking. He will be missed.