Eleanor Cross Beardsley died at the age of 94 on June, 2 2020 in the loving care of The Laurels of Hendersonville, North Carolina. She had been ill for some time, but Covid-19 got her, like so many others, in the end. Eleanor, however, is far more than a mere statistic.
The tenth of Clyde and Zadie Cross’ eleven children, she was born on the family’s small farm on the shores of Lake Erie. When she was a child, the Cross family moved to Ripley, New York. From an early age, with her flaming red hair, a temper to match and quite astounding beauty, she made an impression wherever she went.
She attended Ripley High School before taking a degree in early education at Geneseo State in 1948, where she was involved in the Student Christian Fellowship. After graduating, she spent a year teaching kindergarten at Charles Street School in Jamestown, New York. In 1949, she moved to Auburn, New York to become Director of Christian Education at Second Presbyterian Church.
Shortly after her arrival in Auburn, she met the young architect James (Jim) Beardsley. Smitten with this strong-minded, red-haired woman, Jim wooed her with popcorn and thereby won her heart. They were married in Auburn on 19 April 1950. At the reception, Eleanor read the riot act to an uninvited journalist. From the start, it was clear that she was not to be crossed.
Jim and Eleanor began their married life in an apartment over the offices of Beardsley & Beardsley Architects (now the Beardsley Design Group) at 64 South Street, where their first child, Susan, also began her life. In the evenings, Jim (aka Curly) worked on the designs for the house he wanted to build for his wife and family. The site was on family land, at the top of a steep and heavily wooded gully. His brother, Wallace P. Beardsley Jr, had already built on another site. Jim’s design is strikingly similar to a student competition he entered at Cornell in 1940.
Eleanor and Jim moved in with his parents, Wallace and Mildred Beardsley, on 141 Franklin Street to be closer to the site. Eleanor loved the building process, during which their second child, Tom, was conceived. James Richard (Rick) and Ellen soon followed. In addition to bearing children and making a home, Eleanor remained active with Christian Education at the Second Presbyterian Church (now Westminster Presbyterian Church, Auburn, NY).
As her children grew, Eleanor began to suffer from a rare neurological condition, but didn’t falter. In addition to being a member of the Auburn Service League and the Parent Teacher Association, she inaugurated the Transportation Project for Cayuga County (upstate NY), which evolved from the Friends in Service Here (FISH) project and led to the Senior Citizens Aide Transportation (SCAT), for which she was duly honoured.
When Eleanor and Jim retired to Hendersonville, NC in the 1980’s, they became active members of the Trinity Presbyterian Church and established the Beardsley Christian Education Foundation. Eleanor was also instrumental in the local branch of FISH until her myriad medical conditions made it impossible to communicate effectively. It is somewhat ironic that despite all the work she had invested in transport for senior citizens, the structure was incapable of accommodating her as her mobility decreased.
Throughout her life, Eleanor had a caustic wit that didn’t suit everyone. She was savagely competitive, particularly at card games, dominoes and backgammon. Jim/Curly never beat her at backgammon. The only time I ever beat her was on her 94th birthday, 10 March 2020, the last time I saw her. While she wasn’t always easy, she is singularly memorable.
Eleanor is predeceased by her husband, James Peck Beardsley (2011) and her son James Richard Beardsley (2015). She is survived by the youngest of her ten siblings, Joan (Josie) Aron, daughters Susan Fisher, Ellen Beardsley, son Tom Beardsley, sisters-in-law Lynn Beardsley and Velma Beardsley and brother-in-law Robert Aron, as well as several grandchildren, great grandchildren, great-great grandchildren, nieces and nephews.
Arrangements are being handled by Asheville Alternative Funeral Services. Due to current conditions with the COVID-19 virus, memorial services will be considerably delayed.
Eleanor requested any donations to the Beardsley Christian Education Foundation at Trinity Presbyterian Church, Hendersonville, NC.
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