Lois J. Cross-Hart was born on June 27, 1943 in Little River, Michigan the oldest of eight children born to Clifford Charles Cross, a farmer, and Lela (Johnson) Cross, a homemaker. During her elementary years, Lois was reared in Mecosta County in the little town of Remus. As her father established himself in farming, the family was moved to a larger spread in Isabella County. It was there in Blanchard, Michigan Lois graduated from high school in 1952, having distinguished herself as a formidable athlete of exceptional beauty and self-confidence.
Always surrounded by a loving, close-knit and god-fearing family, Lois took great pride in her African American, Native American and British ancestral heritage. Bertha, her maternal grandmother whose mother and father emigrated from England, was a stalwart woman given to privacy, hard work and peculiarity. Widowed and fiercely independent, she held a special affection for her eldest grandchild and Lois was greatly influenced by her. Lois fondly recalls occasions when wandering bands of Gypsies would be granted permission to camp on her grandmother’s property. The young girl would take these occasions to sneak out of the house, and hidden in the distance, watch mesmerized as the women, beautifully bejeweled and arrayed in flowing garments, would dance around a moonlit campfire as their men played musical accompaniment.
On her father’s side, her great grandfather, Thomas Cross, was born in Leuden County, Virginia as the son of an English plantation owner’s daughter (Lee) and a Black plantation servant (Cross). As a young adult, he moved to Hocking County, Ohio where Thomas enlisted in the Army and served in the Colored Infantry during the Civil War. Not long after mustering out of the Army, Thomas and his young family, along with three other families, traveled by oxen and covered wagon to Remus Michigan. This group would later be referred to as the “Old Settlers.” In 1869 Thomas purchased forty acres of land from the Pier Marquette Railroad Company with the proceeds from the sale of two horses. Thomas cleared his land, built his home and a one-room school which doubly served as a place of worship until Thomas furnished the needed monies to build the “Wheatland Church of Christ.” Over one hundred and forty-five years old, the church remains a viable part of the Remus community yet today. Later, he and his wife Mary added one hundred additional acres to their land and their son Amos would farm the land using horse-drawn teams.
It was the influence of her grandfather who instilled in Lois a love of poetry. Every Sunday, after church, the family would assemble at the old farmhouse. In the parlor, Grandpa Amos would take out his treasured books of the Old Masters and read aloud the works of Keats, Tennyson, and Shelly, who came alive with the booming baritone voice he possessed. The great African American Poet, Paul Lawrence Dunbar was a favorite which he read in dialect. Lois’s poem “Papa” is a tribute to her grandfather Amos, and her poem “Then” is a tribute to her father, Clifford.
After a brief stint in the city and marrying, Lois returned to her first love of rural living and moved to Cassopolis. There she raised four children and was involved in numerous creative endeavors, both personally and professionally. In 1970 she founded a very successful design firm, Five Continents Ltd. In time that company spawned an even larger enterprise, Kuralt-Bertelle Manufacturing Co., a decorative throw pillow manufacturing firm. Lois was masterfully creative and innovative in business. Her firm supplied major mass merchandisers like Sears, K-Mart, Target, Spiegel's, Marshall Fields and many other fine retailers. When she was unable to secure 2nd phase capital, the company was closed after ten plus years in business.
While Lois had been writing since early adulthood, the closure of her company led her to a season of serious contemplation and commitment to her gift. Some of her epics and a volume of children's work were crafted during this time. Her love of the environment inspired her to write numerous nature-filled pieces, including the celebrated "Man Walks Here."
Lois has accepted many speaking invitations. A compilation of her work was featured on WNIT TV and at Western Michigan University. She has been notably published in Crisis Magazine, founded in 1910 by W.E.B. Du Bois, in addition to numerous other newspaper and print publications.
In March of 2012 the Cass County Board of Commissioners bestowed on her the honor of Poet Laureate of Cass County. Her book of poems "the color of nether" was published in 2011 and persists in selling briskly, and her body of work continues to grow since her retirement. Lois spends her days actively involved in the pursuit of helping others, her church, and her continual love of nature. She has been known to plant hundreds of trees, once bringing a seedling back from the birthplace of W.E.B. Du Bois and planting it in her yard. Today that tree stands over forty feet tall.
As Poet Laureate of Cass County, Lois has written the anthem for the Underground Railroad Society of Cass County entitled "The Cass County Brave." Her piece "The Fugitive Slave" is prominently displayed in the Bonine House, the historic home of Quaker abolitionists and UGRR stationmasters James E. and Sarah Bogue Bonine, in Vandalia.
Perhaps the best way to define Lois is to say that she is a true daughter of Michigan. Her beloved Michigan has always been precious to her. Lois' early years were spent up North in an area she likes to refer to as "Beyond the White Cloud, where the Northland begins." She delights in reminiscing about her many summers spent in Woodland Park, and relishes recanting stories of bears foraging around at evening time. The poems reflecting her proud Native American heritage are themselves roots, extending from the Northland.
Lois J. Cross-Hart's work is a legacy of love for the place she calls home, penned appreciatively and sensitively by a woman who describes herself as a "writer of sweet psalms."