Deep in a valley in the rainforest leading to Sheringham Point, as water heated on the big cookstove in the kitchen of the pioneer cottage, Grandma Cross was offering soothing comfort to her daughter-in-law. It was 1924, and young Lydia Cross gave birth that September day to her second child, named Thomas Charles for his father and grandfather. Eighty-six years later, Tom Charles came back to the old homestead to spend his remaining few months enjoying gazing out at the peaceful scenes of Cross Point Farm, on Sunnybrae Road.
TC grew up on the farm with his siblings, Margaret, Gilbert, Lorna and Janey. Their dad Tom Sr. worked at local sawmills when work was available, and was a renowned outdoorsman, bringing home venison, grouse and fish in the custom of the day.
Lydia became an accomplished homemaker, her green thumb producing an array of vegetables and fruits in her kitchen garden, and provided legendary preserving and baking. Milk cows, sheep, pigs and chickens kept the family well-fed. There wasn’t much bought at the store in those days – if you couldn’t produce it you did without.
As soon as the children could walk they became a part of the farm team that kept food on the table, and a part of the community team of pioneer families that each reached a hand out to their neighbours whenever help was needed. TC and his siblings had relatives in the district as well, as their dad’s older sister Frances Cross was married to Jeremiah Sullivan, another well-known Shirley pioneer family name.
The depression years hit when TC was six-years-old, and he quickly learned to work alongside his dad, getting firewood and clearing land on their own farm and also hiring out to the neighbours.
TC recalled that at age 10, he worked filling and carrying one hundred pound gunny sacks of potatoes, and being paid only after he had carried 10 sacks. Overalls and bare feet were the usual garb. Sometimes he accompanied his dad on the trapline, set for mink and raccoon and frequently enroute, the two would sight cougars and bears.
Along with his siblings TC walked up the graveled Sheringham Point Road to classes at Shirley School, which ran to grade eight. After his school days, T C, now a tall, well-built young fellow, joined the workforce, but the depression years still held the economy in its grip. World War II hit, and TC was quick to enlist. He recalled borrowing shoes from a cousin and heading off to Victoria and the recruitment office.
Returning from the Second World War, TC worked a stint as keeper at Sheringham Point lighthouse, then returned to the Armed Forces to serve in the Korean conflict. He continued in the military for some time, but always treasured the time he spent where his heart remained, back in Shirley. Initiated into community activities as a youngster, he continued his dedicated volunteerism for many years. As a parent with children, he coached youth sports and was a Scout leader. During the 1960s and 70s he worked hard for the Shirley Community Association, and served as president.
Proud of his military service, TC was a member of the Royal Canadian Legion, Branch #54, and a leader in the Remembrance Day services at the Cenotaph at Shirley. Active in the Shirley Volunteer Fire Protection Society as well, he was a founding member, and had served as both a firefighter and dispatcher.
While TC had been married and raised a family, in recent years he had lived with his granddaughter Patryce Minten in the Sooke village, where visits to the seniors’ centre brightened his days as well.
His Shirley roots called him home, and the last weeks were spent with his daughter Colleen and her husband Chuck Minten at Cross Point Farm.
While TC was predeceased by his son Rocky, he is survived by sons Alan and Danny and by daughters Linda and Tracy in addition to Colleen, and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
The service will be held at Knox Presbyterian Church, Saturday, Feb. 5, at 2 p.m., followed by a 3 p.m. reception at the Legion.
Historian, Sooke Region Museum