Cross, Joan Rae

March 26, 1938 - October 10, 2018


Joanie Rae died – an end of a life well lived.  There was no pain and her family was there beside her. She spent the past nine years struggling with the complicated grief from the death of her husband JR, and the horrible ravages of Alzheimer’s.  Joan went peacefully to be with the love of her life, JR who died those 9 nine years before.  She also had her best friend and traveling buddy, Marta Zipperer, go with her as they died within hours of each other.

Joan was a fighter from birth.  Born in Denver, Colorado to a loving but poor family, she lived in a box car initially –her father Jack Robertson worked for the railroad and they lived there for free.  She was a sickly child and almost bled to death at age four but a newish procedure at the time – a blood transfusion- from her father saved her.  She met JR when she was ten year old in Pampa, Texas and told her friends she would marry him someday.  She did at eighteen, in Tucumcari New Mexico.  They moved to California where they struggled to make ends meet, especially with two little girls in Santa Monica.   JR’s job led them back to Texas – to Lubbock and then to Plano in 1967 where they lived the rest of their lives.  Joanie valued education above all – a drive she got from her mother Lois – and she went to earn her BA from UCLA, her Masters from UNT and her Doctorate from Texas A&M Commerce.  She instilled that love of education in those around her and supported their quest for higher education too – not going to college was NEVER an option for Joan’s intimates.

However, she also believed education came from travel.  She spent her life going to the far reaches of the world and taking road trips.  One of the first family trips was driving to Mexico City in 1969.  The moon landing was happening, so they stopped in the middle of nowhere in Mexico to watch the event in the only place in town – the bar – that had a television.  She wanted her girls to see when we landed on the moon  (Jamie remembers that the vertical hold was broken on the TV).   The family would KOA across America with Joan bringing encyclopedias in the cab of the truck from all the states they would pass thru.  She would read aloud about each state as they drove through them, and they always had to visit the state capital and National Parks.  When the kids were grown, Joan and her traveling partner Marta went on a summer trip each year to a different corner of the world.  They went to China right after the country was opened to visitors and to the USSR before the fall of communism.  Coming back from the Far East they snuck pearls and Rolexes past customs in their bras (we do NOT recommend this).   Joanie Rae accidently sold Marta to a camel driver at the base of the pyramids of Giza in Egypt (with more money, she got her back). In all, they traveled to over 40 countries. They never made it to Sub-Saharan Africa which they both regretted.    The annual girls shopping trip to New York City became a must for those in her sphere.  It was only for a weekend each, yet everyone dressed to the nines and went out each night.  One time when exiting the plane, the pilot asked if we were moving to New York given the amount of luggage we had.  Everyone laughed at his shocked face when we told him it was just for a weekend.

Dr. Cross ran a successful counseling business, focusing on Marriage and Family Therapy. She lectured extensively and was published in magazines like Redbook.    A civil rights supporter from the sixties, she was asked to resign from Plano ISD for teaching a “Black History” section.  She supported those of any color, creed or sexual orientation.  In the 1970s in Plano, Texas that was not the popular stance to take.  A cross was burnt in her yard to scare her – it didn’t work.  A proud Feminist and Equal Rights supporter she faced critics and picketers when she hosted a lecture in Dallas and had Gloria Steinem as a panelist. A lifelong Democrat, she was a delegate to the Texas Democratic convention one year and attended both Clinton/Gore Inaugurations in Washington DC. She was known for her fabulous Christmas parties and for dancing and drinking at Swan Court where she would grab the microphone and sing “Your Cheating Heart” if the band could play it.

Joan leaves two biological daughters – Julie and Jamie, and countless children of the heart – Jackie, Ernie, Heather, Patrick, Jon, Justin, Jan, and Mindy.  She has four fabulous grandchildren – Victoria Joan Cross Kennedy (her namesake), Jake Roger Cross Kennedy (her only grandson who played the violin for her up to the end), Katie Joan Laferriere Cross (who inherited her independent spirit and her determination to do it all) and Samantha Shea Laferriere Cross (who inherited her love of books and beautiful things).  All inherited the travel bug.  Both son-in-laws Colin Cross and Kurt Kennedy will miss her greatly, as she always recommended that making love was the way to end all arguments with your husband.  She has one remaining sibling, Tammey Lynn Robertson Shimon and many nieces and nephews from coast to coast.

Dr. Cross, Joan, Joanie Rae, Mom, Jojo, Granmere, Old Lady and Sissy

Thank you for all you have given us.  Thank you for always being there, teaching us, listening to us, helping and forgiving us.  Thank you for always trying to make life easier and happier for us.  You were a woman of boundless energy and a strong sense of family, duty and fairness.  You gave us ALL a safe, secure, and healthy environment.  Our house was always open to anyone because of you and Dad.  There are so many people who think of you as a second mother.  You provided to all who needed it – even if all they needed was a glass of tea and a baloney sandwich.   Thank you for opening your heart and life to so many people that have enriched our lives.

Joan and JR Cross will be interred at the Dallas Ft. Worth National Cemetery on Friday, January 25th at 2:30pm.  A celebration of life for Joan will be held at First United Methodist Church in Richardson, Texas on Saturday, January 26th at 11AM.  Please contact the family for additional information.  The family is collecting stories and anecdotes so please share yours.

In lieu of flowers, please donate to the charity of your choice. But if you want to plant something to remember her, her favorite flowers were pink roses.  JR had them sent to her every Valentine’s Day.  Except one.  And that year, the fight was legendary.

Arrangements are under the direction of
ARIA Cremation Service and Funeral Home
19310 Preston Road
Dallas, Texas 75252


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2 replies on “Cross, Joan Rae”

Joan Kennedy says:

We will miss Joan’s vivacious spirit. She was central to our family. Her Chinese Christmas parties were legendary–I still have some gifts I coveted at the event! Her spirit travels on. . .

Renee says:

Jamie and Julie, I was so sorry to see that your sweet mom had passed. I have many fond memories which seem like another lifetime ago (because it was) of your mom and dad. Praying for you both. Love, Renee Mills Peri

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Excellent customer service, they made you feel like you were their only customer. Very helpful and explained what we should expect during the process. They basically took care of our needs during this time. They contacted DFW National Cemetery for us which made it a smooth experience. Definitely will use them again.

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