Ted Cross, White House Adviser And Bird Photographer, Dies At 86 Theodore Cross followed many passions over his 86 years: He was a real estate lawyer, a publisher, a White House adviser and a leading spokesman for black economic development. But it was his love of waterbird photography that took him on expeditions around the globe.
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A Pursuit Of 'Waterbirds' Concludes A Variegated Life

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A Pursuit Of 'Waterbirds' Concludes A Variegated Life

A Pursuit Of 'Waterbirds' Concludes A Variegated Life

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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

And I'm Melissa Block.

Over his 86 years, Theodore Cross pursued many passions: He was a real estate lawyer, a publisher, a White House adviser, a leading spokesman for black economic development. But Ted Cross was perhaps most passionately a lover and photographer of waterbirds. You could hear that passion when he described, say, the reddish egret.

Mr. THEODORE CROSS (Photographer): They do this marvelous feeding dance. They run around acting like drunken sailors.

BLOCK: Or the red knot.

Mr. CROSS: It's a gorgeous, gorgeous creature. It's probably one of the most exciting birds in my life.

BLOCK: Or even the predatory great frigate bird.

Mr. CROSS: They're mean, nasty creatures. They're very lazy, but there are probably no more skillful flyer in the world.

BLOCK: Theodore Cross died on Sunday of heart failure following a fall at his home in Sanibel, Florida. I talked with him back in December, when he published his glorious, huge photo book titled "Waterbirds." He told me he found no room in his life for birds until he was in his 40s.

Mr. CROSS: I was totally ignorant of birds, then whammo 20 years later, they became a very important part of my life. Except for family and friends, there's few things I care more about than these seabirds.

BLOCK: And Ted Cross' pursuit of those seabirds took him hundreds of thousands of miles around the globe. He went on far-flung birding expeditions well into his later years to Siberia, China, South America, the Arctic.

Mr. CROSS: When I take these terrific trips, people say: Holy smoke, at your age, you do these things? But it certainly does get you through the difficult years of approaching what is going to happen.

Someone once said to me: Ted Cross will go to his maker without having gotten the perfect picture of a reddish egret. Why I do it, I don't know, I don't know, but I get enormous pleasure from it, and it does indeed make it possible to face that ultimate day that lies ahead. It is a way of dealing with the expectation of death.

BLOCK: Theodore Cross spent just about every day of the last month at the Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge in Sanibel still trying to get the perfect picture of a reddish egret. He died yesterday at age 86.

There's a slideshow of his photographs at npr.org.

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