- Larry Cross - an innovator in health care management, organic farmer, music lover, and a skilled woodworker who as a young man built his family's home using only hand tools - died on Dec. 8, 2017, surrounded by music, friends, and four generations of family. He was 69.
Even while battling cancer in his final years, Larry relished the great outdoors. At age 66 he bought a Whitehall double scull rowboat and in the summers he would take daily rows of two to three miles while staying on Cape Cod or on his beloved island, Bois Bubert, off the coast of Maine. Sometimes Larry would row alone but often he would set out with friends or with his wife, Marian Lapsley Cross, who Larry said was able to synchronize with his rowing more precisely than anyone.
Larry was an avid Appalachian Mountain Club hiker and a member of their President's Society. He had long had the goal of climbing to the summit of as many of New Hampshire's 48 4,000+ foot mountains as he could. In 2014, he climbed his 44th peak, Mt. Moriah, with lifelong friend, Steve Zimmer.
Born on Christmas Eve of 1947 in San Antonio, Texas, to parents, Harold and Alice Cross, Larry was primarily raised in Hampden, Maine, where his father established a medical practice. He attended public schools until the eighth grade and in 1963 enrolled at Phillips Exeter Academy where he was a member of the wrestling team and choir. He attended Harvard College and later earned a Master's degree in Public Health at Boston University.
In 1969 Larry met and married Jane Grover, his wife of more than 30 years. He enjoyed telling the story of how they were initially matched up when they were both working as door-to-door salespeople for an encyclopedia company. "Jane was a top seller and I wasn't," Larry said. "The company felt I needed coaching." The couple considered themselves "back-to-the-landers" and bought a plot of land in Winterport, Maine, where Larry built a three-bedroom home by hand and with Jane, raised children Justin and Rebecca, and were active members of Church of the Open Door. During these years Larry's life-long love of music -from blue grass to classical opera - flourished. Over the course of his life he became skilled at playing guitar and classical piano.
Starting in the 1970s Larry built a career in health care, initially helping his Dad in his practice and then building his own consulting business working with hospitals to improve their management practices. Of particular note, while working with the Sisters of Charity Health System in Lewiston, Maine, Larry introduced the first electronic medical records system in the state of Maine. While working with a network of nine community hospitals, he developed successful initiatives to reduce C-section births and improve services to the frail elderly through care by geriatric nurse practitioners. He also worked with the cardiac surgery program at Maine Medical Center and helped lay the foundation for the Maine Heart Institute.
Larry was a member of the board of the American College of Medical Practice Executives (ACMPE) and in 1997 won the Edward B. Stevens Article of the Year award for his article, Value-based Leadership: A prescription for reforming the American health care system.
From 2004 to 2014 Larry served as CEO of the Norwalk Community Health Center, doubling the amount of clinical space and the number of patients served. According to current staff, "he revived the organization after a period of financial stress." Among the health center's innovations was a mobile medical unit built in a retrofitted bus. Larry dubbed it "the miracle bus" at an event christening the new service with Norwalk Mayor Richard Moccia and U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal. "We estimate this bus will provide health and dental services to an additional 2,500 people in Norwalk who now struggle to get health care," Larry told newspaper reporters.
After separating from his wife, Jane, he met Marian Lapsley Schwarz, an educator and non-profit executive who worked in New York City but also owned property in Somers, New York, an hour's drive north of the City.
Larry and Marian married in 2007 and together they created Amawalk Farm, Westchester County's first certified organic farm. Among the crops grown and sold to local stores as well as local and New York City restaurants and a growing community of friends were greens, garlic, heirloom tomatoes, squashes, beans, carrots, and cut flowers. The farm became a gathering place for the community. Children from the Mount Kisco Day Care Center harvested pumpkins, local high school students worked the fields, and each week from mid-July to late September hundreds came to pick raspberries, sometimes coming by train or even bike from New York City.
During growing season Larry worked four days at the Norwalk health center and three days at the farm - plus early evenings after arriving home from Norwalk. He kept up on the latest research on organic farming, experimented with crop rotations and seeding methods, and took great pride in the bountiful harvests.
During retirement, Larry's astronomy hobby flourished and he installed a powerful telescope in the middle of the growing field for viewing his favorite constellations. In addition, most days included listening to either opera or classical music on the extraordinary sound system he had assembled.
Larry is survived by his wife, Marian; his son, Justin (Jessica) of Westbrook, Maine, the head of the Southern Maine Tree Company; and daughter, Rebecca (Chris) of Orono, Maine, a teacher and manager with the Job Corps; grandchildren, Sadie, Kate, Wyatt and Natalie; a sister, Susan; a brother, David; and his parents, Harold and Alice Cross. Larry is also survived by stepchildren, Eric (Maureen), Adair and Eliza; and stepgrandchildren, Ronan, Orla and Juniper.
A memorial service will be held on Feb. 3, 2018, at 11 a.m. at Antioch Baptist Church in Bedford Hills, New York.
Published on  January 27, 2018