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Oma Cross, founder of Haas Museum

Published Oct. 18, 2005

The city has lost a living memory of its past. Oma Cross, founder of the Haas Museum and former curator of the Haas and the St. Petersburg Historical Museum, died Monday (Oct. 29, 1990) at Edward White Hospital after a long illness. She was 89.

Her death came three months before the Haas itself will become history. Since its opening in 1962, it has been a mecca for schoolchildren, local history buffs and tourists.

The Haas complex at 3511 Second Ave. S _ four old houses, a blacksmith shop, a caboose, a trolley car and an eagle's nest _ will close Feb. 1.

Mrs. Cross personified the Haas after Edna and Arthur Haas, teachers who were brother and sister, gave it to her in the early 1960s when she was curator of the St. Petersburg Historical Museum. Mrs. Cross set it up, became its curator and supervised its many additions.

She retired in 1984 after a hip injury.

A longtime resident of a house on the grounds of the complex, the slender, white-haired little woman had an innate love of old things and was ideally suited to her position.

Oma Martha Baker was born in Washta, Iowa, and lived in Spirit Lake and Lake Park, Iowa, where she attended high school.

About 1918, her parents, Emanuel and Mary Elizabeth Baker, brought her South on a visit to relatives who were spending the winter.

"I fell in love with St. Petersburg and wanted to move here right then," Mrs. Cross recalled in 1989.

First, however, she went to Sioux Falls, S.D., to attend business school. Graduating in 1920, she met and married Cecil Cross, a shoe salesman. The following year she talked him into settling in St. Petersburg:

"We drove down in an old Overland. The banks closed the next year, 1922, with all our money in a Sioux Falls bank."

Times were hard in St. Petersburg. She took a job as bookkeeper at McIntosh Awning Co. and later worked at the R.

S. Pearce Drugstore.

In 1930 she became interested in antiques through a friend, Mrs. Glen Petty. Together they opened a shop in the Roy S. Hanna house on First Avenue N across from the Soreno Hotel.

The next year Mrs. Cross went into business on her own, opening "The Antique Shop, The Oldest Shop In Town" at 146 Central Ave.

She and Cecil Cross divorced in 1941. Her second husband, Charles Ashby Bayne, died in 1963.

Survivors include a daughter, Elizabeth L. Cross-Dean, North Palm Beach; a son, Cecil C. Cross Jr., Flourtown, Pa.; four grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.

The funeral will be at 1 p.m. Friday at the First Christian Church of Seminole, 13272 Park Blvd. N, Seminole, with the Rev. David Hull officiating. Burial will be in Bay Pines National Cemetery.

Richard E. Sorensen, Gee & Sorensen Funeral Home, is in charge of arrangements.

The family suggested memorial contributions to the Haas Museum complex.