Don Cross Legacy
I recently read of the passing of Don Cross. His legacy of Mt. Abram has meant much to the families who have experienced skiing and been associated with the mountain. Fifty years ago, while Don and his brother were logging Mt. Abram they decided that they could build a ski mountain for a business and for others to enjoy. In this life there are only two certainties – we are born and we die. It is what we do in between these two events that make a difference in the lives we lead and what we leave behind. Don’s vision of providing a special place for families to enjoy outdoor activities is his legacy to all. He made a difference in my life and those of my family. Here is our story.
We arrived in the Bethel area from Michigan July 1972 for me to attend several NTL sessions that lasted a month. Having been reared in Southern California, this was our first visit to the Northeast and Maine, in particular. We rented Hazel Wildes’ (Kennybunkport) newly finished "Port Hole" chalet in the Mt. Abram chalet village. While I was in session, my wife and daughter (Diane and Marcy) put 3,500 miles on our car touring the byways and roads of rural and coastal Maine. When not in the car, they swam under the Sunday River Covered Bridge. We fell in love with the Bethel area. One day I said, "You know I think this would be a great place to spend the Christmas Holidays with the Briggs" (friends of ours who lived in New Jersey). We contacted Hazel and the Christmas of 1973 started a 15-year tradition of both families traveling to Maine and sharing the holidays on Mt. Abram. We all learned to ski here. We had snowball fights, built snow forts, cleared snow from the driveway, kept the wood stove burning, trekked into the woods to find the special Christmas tree – in short, meaningful and long-lasting family traditions were started at a place that Don Cross had created.
In the winter of 1975, I approached Don to see if he had any lots for sale in the village. He showed us two and we selected the one just below Hazel’s. Don held out his hand, shook my hand and said, "Deal!" "Do we need to sign any papers," I said. "No, just send me the check and I’ll send you the deed," Don confirmed the sale. That is the way he did business with me - integrity and honesty was one of his hallmarks. We continued to see his hard work to make Mt. Abram the "unforgettable mountain." His superior grooming of the trails established a model for other ski areas to follow. On limited snow years, before snow making, he and his crew could be seen shoveling snow out of the woods onto the slopes. I can remember skiing one year with just 4 inches of snow. He made it work for all of us.
When I took a job in New Hampshire in 1980, I announced to the family that we could now spend Christmas in our own New England home. "No way Dad," came the cries from the kids. "We have to go to Mt. Abram and Hazel’s – it’s tradition." Traditions are meaningful and can’t be broken. In 1987, we built our own Moose Lodge as a gathering place for the family. It has worked. Now my daughter’s and my son’s (Jason) families gather every winter weekend to develop more of what my grandson (Tucker) says, "We are making memories." In fact, my daughter was married on the Sunday River Bridge and my son married on the slopes of Mt. Abram.
Several years ago, I saw Don in the IGA; we had a brief talk. I thanked him for his work and its meaning to my family. He gave me a very humble look, nodded his head in thankful acknowledgment. For 39 years we have made Mt. Abram our home away from home. Without Don’s vision, I don’t know what other memories the Mylers’ would have made. But in the here and now, we are thankful for Don’s vision some 50 years ago for it has brought to us such joy.
This is just one story. Think of the hundreds of similar stories. Families from Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut – all are here because of Don Cross and his Mt. Abram. I hope the Bethel community celebrates with us the meaning of Don’s legacy and contribution to us all.
Contoocook, N.H. and Locke Mills, Maine