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Jo Cross, former La Veta Mayor, writer, dies

by Nancy Christofferson

TRINIDAD– M. Josephine “Jo” Cross, former La Veta mayor, died Dec. 5, 2008.  She was 93.  She joined the staff of the Huerfano Journal last July.

    Jo was born Nov. 25, 1915 in Langdon, Kansas.  She was a career educator, teaching English and journalism at the high school level.  During World War II she lived in Brazil where she taught hydraulics to the American pilots stationed there.

    When she returned state-side, Jo began teaching in Nebraska, where she met and married her second husband, Walter Jochem.  The couple moved several more times, living in various towns in South Dakota and Illinois.  She completed her teaching career in Valentine, Nebraska, where she was divorced, and retired to Rogers, Arkansas.

    After a serious fall and injury in 1978, Jo decided to move to La Veta to be closer to her only sister and two nieces in 1979.  She immediately became active with community affairs and was a contributing factor in obtaining low-cost senior housing.

    In April 1990 she was elected town mayor, the first and only female mayor of the town, but was forced to resign in March 1991 when her eyesight began failing rapidly due to macular degeneration.

    In 1994 she moved to Trinidad State Nursing Home but when she realized she retained enough sight to cope on her own, she relocated to Corazon Square apartments in Trinidad.

    Jo loved to solve and create word puzzles.  She wrote articles for encyclopedias as well as for the local newspapers, including the old Valley Voice, Huerfano World, Signature, and most recently, the Huerfano Journal.  Jo wrote opinion pieces (she always had an opinion!) and most recently, her reminiscences of the Cuchara Camps of her younger years.

    Jo entertained the younger set at the Camps by playing piano for their dances as well as dreaming up treasure and scavenger hunts.  She spent many summers with her mother in the Cross Patch cabin in Cuchara, and did much of the building and maintenance herself.  The Cross family first came to Cuchara in 1931, and purchased their home in 1938 after renting it each summer.  Jo later purchased her own cabin across the parkway from the Cross Patch.

    In 1959 Jo assisted her mother in writing the book River of  Friendship, a history of Cuchara and its residents.  In 1970 Jo updated the book by adding new residents and had it published.  In the early 1980s she devised the first Cuchara Valley Directory, a book with hand-drawn maps showing the properties’ locations and owners, from the Gap south to the Forks.

    Jo was predeceased by her parents, the Revs. D.F. and Hazel Cross and sister Helen Colvin.  She is survived by her nieces Sara Jo Murphy of Cuchara and Olpe, Kansas, Nancy Christofferson, La Veta and many cousins and dear friends.

    Cremation has taken place.  She requested there be no services.  Any contributions may be made to the La Veta Library, of which she was a former board member and staunch supporter.  Send donations to La Veta Public Library, PO Box 28, La Veta, CO 81055.