Obituary: Retired RAF leader and lifelong Canaries fan, dies aged 87
- Credit: SUPPLIED BY FAMILY
Being invited into the director’s box on match day, having a selfie with Delia Smith, and sitting next to a football idol during lunch.
It was the kind of day that only a Canaries fan could dream of.
But that is exactly what lifelong Norwich City supporter Kenneth Cross was lucky enough to experience just over a decade ago.
Tributes have been paid to Mr Cross, who died on January 31, aged 87, following a fall and subsequent heart attack.
His son, Graham Cross, explained how the day unfolded.
“It was Dad’s 75th birthday and I asked Citys’ vice-chairman Michael Foulger, who I’m friends with, if we could pay for Dad to sit in the director’s box,” he said.
“He said we could visit as his guests instead. We went in the box, met Delia, and had lunch there.
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“We had a really great day.”
Not only did Mr Cross have the time of his life, but during lunch, he was sat next to Norwich City royalty, Ollie Burton. The former Welsh international footballer was someone he had long admired.
His love of sports was the backbone of his leisure activities and something Mr Cross treasured outside of a long career in aviation, firstly in the Royal Air Force (RAF) then as a civilian.
Shortly after his birth on October 13, 1934, in Wymondham, Kenneth James Cross and his family moved to Attleborough next to the town’s train station – an apt location due to his father working for British Rail
Although memories from Mr Cross’s early life are sparse, he enjoyed the usual misdemeanours of childhood such as scrumping.
He also recalled witnessing Second World War German bombers flying over the now-closed Gaymer Cider Company’s factory, watching Norwich City play at its former stadium The Nest, and filling his autograph book with signatures from famous Speedway personalities.
Mr Cross attended Thetford Grammar School between 1946-51 and would make the daily commute there by train. Once there, he became the captain of the cricket and football team and would go on to become a qualified football referee with Norfolk FA as well as the captain of RAF Honington’s cricket team.
Leaving school at 16, he completed his National Service with the RAF. After this time, he joined and served from 1953-57.
Following a brief spell as a clerical officer for the civil service, he rejoined the RAF and was commissioned in 1960 to specialise in air traffic control.
During his RAF career, which he retired from in 1980, he became an elected member of the British Institute of Management, obtained his air traffic controller’s licence, and was a member of the Guild of Air Traffic Control Officers.
His job took him all over the country and the world, including three years' service in Singapore and more locally in RAF Watton and RAF Honington.
Following this, he became employed at Luton Airport as an air traffic controller, rising up the ranks to appointment as its watch manager.
An anecdote from his time there included having his voice recognised by a former RAF colleague, and Mr Cross helping him land his private plane using military terms rather than civil terms.
Mr Cross was proud of his achievements and a career highlight saw him being interviewed by John Noakes, of Blue Peter fame, during the 1970s for an episode about air traffic.
Mr Cross had four children with his first wife, Carolina, who he met in Malta, an archipelago in the Mediterranean Sea. Together they had four children before separating and subsequently divorcing in 1999.
He eventually returned to Norfolk to live in Attleborough and remarried in 2020 to his partner of 20 years, Audrey, who he leaves behind along with his children, six grandchildren, and great-grandchild.
His family said: “Everyone said he was always smiling and he always took the time to talk to people.”
A funeral will be held on February 28 at Bedford Crematorium at 1.45pm. More information via Woodman and Son, 3 Market Square, Biggleswade, Beds. SG18 8AP.