Dennis W. Cross

Dennis Cross

Dennis W. Cross



Dennis passed away last night and will surely continue to be our guiding inspiration from his Heavenly perch keeping remnant Poor Little Lambs in line with his mighty Whiffenpoof crozier.

Rick Miller

Click to access Whiff Zoom Call with Dennis.

Click here to access remembrances of Dennis by his fellow Whiffs.

From Ralph Protsik:

Though not known to many of you, few of our classmates are as beloved among those who did know him, both in our class and in dozens of others, as Dennis Cross, the long-time president of the Whiffenpoof Alumni Association.

Here’s a note I received yesterday from Bob Pratter, a member of the 1966 Whiffs —

“I believe you all in the Fabulous 66 Whiffs know that Dennis is in the hospital for congestive heart failure and other things and according to his family in grave condition and close to death. Ralph Protsik rounded up many of the usual suspects [20 in all, from at least eight Whiffs classes] for a zoom call yesterday. As you know Dennis is very hard of hearing and needs his glasses. Zoom calls are confusing enough for fully healthy people, but Dennis was alert, recognized many on the call, and vocally responsive. The call lasted about an hour, which says a lot for his stamina and desire to communicate.

“I believe Dennis will be leaving us soon, so say a prayer for him and his family. Dennis was always a lovable “prankster” (the term David Hawkins used yesterday ) but this time it’s for real. He leaves a big space in the Whiffenpoof tradition we all enjoy, and we should all be grateful for having been in his company.”

It was Dennis (occasionally with one or more co-conspirators) who –

• Essentially created the Whiff Alumni Association and gave life to the bonds now connecting old and new Whiffs
• Organized and ran the 100th Whiff Anniversary celebration
• Propagated and maintained the celebrated “Nantucket Whiff” reunion held every summer
• Helped organize and maintain the “Florida Peals” Whiff reunion held annually
• Was a major organizing force behind several ’65 Whiff reunions
• Was a presence in myriad reunions of Whiff alum groups, providing a booming and glorious addition to their sounds
• Not willing to leave any stone unturned in paving the Whiffenpoof future, successfully negotiated the 2013 marriage of ’65 Whiff Cross daughter Eliza to ’68 Whiff Miller son Patrick producing two 2nd Gen Baby Whiffs – Emerson and Charlotte – in prescient anticipation of Sophia Compoamor becoming the first female Whiff in 2018
• Brought the ‘65s together on Nantucket to celebrate Louisa’s wedding in 2008 and Liza’s wedding in 2013
• Created the ‘Name Nuts’—a small group of Whiffs charged with naming/re-naming Baby Whiffs and Whiff alums, many of whom were dissatisfied (and sometimes horrified) by their given Whiff names
• Conspired to trade Popo to the Krokodildoes in exchange for some dreadful Krok arrangement and a countertenor
• Then co-created a faux-New York Times article announcing the trade
• Then shared the article with all attending the 100th Anniversary dinner in the Commons
• Famously conceived of and had created a plaque honoring Popo, then had it mounted above a urinal at Mory’s
• Delivered a 7am breakfast of road-kill toads (Bufo marinus, the big ones) under a silver serving dome to Popo’s room at Castle Harbour
• Served as a constant gadfly in Popo’s ear, reminding him of the windfall we all expected from his post-graduation investment of ’65 Whiff assets
• Provided no end of mirth to all of us fortunate enough to sing with him, drink with him, dine with him, cavort with him, and otherwise be in his presence

Three stories provided by Bill Hart (Pitchpipe of ’65 Whiffs)–

“When Dennis was in Jr. High (9th grade?) in Grosse Point, his classmates were totally unaware that he sang at all, until a talent show in which he was the last act. They had begun to file out of the hall when the soundtrack of Cole Porter’s “Let’s Do It” began to play, and Dennis appeared on stage performing a jazzy vocal version. It brought down the house.”

“While Dennis parents were in Germany, he decided a couple of years at boarding school might be right for him. He drove on his own from Grosse Pointe to Andover and applied in person. How could they have failed to accept him?! When he wasn’t chosen for the acappella group there–the Eight & One, he started his own group and named it the “Sour Grapes.”

“He brought with him to Yale an immaculate black bowler hat which he wore to football games at the Yale Bowl, handsomely dressed in coat and tie. After the first outing like this, he added a folded black umbrella on his arm. I don’t recall whether he flashed the Churchillian V for victory, but the whole presentation had the desired effect on fans of the opposing team milling around outside the Bowl. We were lucky to escape with our lives.”

One from Chris Cooke (’65 Whiffs)–

“Years ago, after securing a position with the John Deere Company, Popo got a call from the company’s CEO summoning him to a get-acquainted meeting in his office. Popo was thrilled, but minutes before the meeting he received another call. It was Dennis admitting (after uncharacteristic reflection) that it was he, not the Deere CEO, who had invited Popo to meet.”

And from Jon McBride (’64 Whiffs)—

When Sarah Lawrence College insisted on throwing a retirement dinner for their outgoing CFO Cross in late August of 2006, after his protests were ignored, Dennis simply insisted on including several ‘anonymous’ dinner guests of his own – John “Odds Or” Evans (Whiffs of 1964), Dan “Anita Ek” (or “Tip of the Ice” ?) Bergfeld (Whiffs of 1965) and yours truly, Jon “Will Ya Be” McBride (Whiffs of 1964.) When it came time for Dennis to make his mandatory departure speech, after brief opening remarks he said he’d like some of the dinner guests to come forward and join him. He was proud as a peacock as we sang several numbers, then closed with “Tootsie.” We paused between 5 or 6 of the final “Good Byes” for Dennis to walk around the room and say “good bye” to each of his Sarah Lawrence colleagues – he got carried away and included Anne in a final “good bye” which cracked the crowd up uproariously. Never a man to miss an opportunity for a Whiff tune or two!

From Kyle Pruett (Whiff ’65):


In my years with your dad, I have never known him to overstay any gathering. Knowing when to go is one of his things. It seems is not quite ready. It is, as it must be for you and yours, deeply painful to watch him at the edge of his life, his awareness, his understanding, having held together so many things from his center.

Ursula LeGuin wrote of her disdain for the phrase ‘old age is not for sissies’ in her essays on being 80. ‘It’s for those who get there, damn it!’. And get there he did, with us in tow, and he leaves way too soon. I heard him speak frequently of his ‘incredible luck’ at having the family he has; ‘God knows I didn’t deserve it’, he said over scotch after our 1 and only shared Peals gig. Teasing him perpetually, I said, ‘of course. Ann gets most of the credit’. Maybe, maybe not – you would know. We are there with you in our ways, and glad that Ingham was there to deliver the goods, as only he could do.

From Biff Folberth ’66:

I hold him responsible for giving me the name Three Bags. I was also fortunate enough to play a number of rounds of doubles tennis with him on The Nantucket Yacht Club tennis courts – where as in life, he always held his own plus some.

From Popo (Ken Bardach):

Dear Louisa,

Thank you for giving us this update about your Dad’s serious health condition. It must have been as hard for you to write as it is for us to receive.

Please remind your Dad this is has been, is, and always will be my VBF (Very Best Friend) despite him trying to shanghai-ing me in China 60 years ago.

We all love Denis “Rhinoce” Cross and wish a gentle journey and hopefully a good recovery.

Peace and blessings

From David Hawkins (Whiff ’65):

I dreamed last night I got on the boat to heaven
And by some chance I had brought my dice along
And there I stood
And I hollered “Someone fade me”
But the passengers, they knew right from wrong.
For the people all said sit down, sit down, you’re rockin’ the boat

People all said sit down
Sit down you’re rockin’ the boat.

Dennis sang this so well and he rocked the boat so well.

From Swami (Bob Pratter, Whiff ’66):

We expected this but it still hits me hard. Dennis had pizazz and it’s very hard to see that light go out. But he will be ever present in all of us who knew him and alive in our hearts and minds.

From John Evans (Whiff ’64):

Dear Louisa and Eliza, Our condolences and prayers are with you. As you say, the outpouring of stories and good wishes has been most impressive and meant a lot to Dennis, to you, and to the rest of us as well.

I knew your father well. He was one year behind me in the Bakers’ Dozen and then the Whiffs and, in later years, I sang in gigs that he organized on both coasts in Florida, on Nantucket, at your wedding on Nantucket, at Mory’s, at the retreat for the Second Circuit Court of Appeals at Lake George, at the retirement from Sarah Lawrence, and in the 4Bs, a quartet with Dan Bergfeld and Jon McBride.

The quartet started in Essex, New York, on Lake Champlain, where Jon McBride has a summer home. As we were walking around town, Dennis, in a gravelly, Southern drawl, came out with, ‘Ya know, I like this town. I think I’m gonna buy it.’ Dennis was soon being called Bubba. We subsequently sang in Florida and stayed over at the family condo in Boynton Beach, at which point the quartet became the 4Bs: Bubba and the Boys from Boynton Beach. Wonderful times.

Dennis pretty much single handedly organized the Whiff Alumni and organized the sing-ins for and support for new whiff groups. Substantial and enduring achievements that have grown ever since.

Dennis was always positive, always cheerful, always energetic, always a great organizer, and always a bit of a stand-up comic. A wonderful person to know and to call a friend. We will cherish his memory.

From David Hawkins (Whiff ’65):

Dear Louisa and Eliza,

I met Dennis in 1961, so I have known him for more than 3/4 of my life. Those years are filled with so many memories of his presence. Of course he was musically gifted but he was also socially gifted. He didn’t take himself or others too seriously, which made him always entertaining to be around. But like good entertainment, there were always deeper values about living a good life that he demonstrated in his words and actions.

We all owe Dennis a debt for making it possible for us to extend the good things about the Whiff experience for decades after leaving Yale. I am looking forward to future Whiff get-togethers as being even more meaningful because they will inevitably be filled with shared tales of our favorite moments with your dad.

From Sarge (John Burke, Whiff ’72):

Dear Louisa and Eliza,

Many thanks for your note! We deeply share your grief.

But there’s light!

It’s no secret: we all have our favorites – those friends who are always glad to chat with you, have your full attention, let you know how important you are to them. Dennis was always at the top of my list, and I’m sure all who know him share this sentiment.

We had a running gag: I’d kid Dennis about his lengthy emails. “I know you never read them,” he’d happily complain. And he was right – not because they were eruditely rambly, but because I much preferred to hear his voice, experience that kindly touch he had with everyone.

Our loss is immense, but so is our gain. Our memory, a good friend assured me, is the one bank that can never be overdrawn. That’s good, for I’m sure we’ll line up at the window, frequently, to collect more of Dennis for all our years to come!

Much love, and Our hearts are with you!

From Ed Greenberg:

Eliza and Louisa,

Although we had been preparing ourselves to receive this sad news, it still weighs heavily. How fortunate we are to have known Dennis, and I am sure we will continue to be in touch with his family especially on Nantucket. Let us know how we can help with preparations for a memorial service to coincide with the August 6th gathering. We look forward to seeing you both soon and sharing stories about this much loved man.


From Bill Hart (Whiff ’65):

On our call yesterday several of you mentioned the “jury” hearings Dennis orchestrated at Mory’s for new Whiff groups. Afterward I recalled one of these.

As we may remember, Pitchpipes used to confine their conducting in performance to modest head and facial movements unlike the full-body hand direction of Pitchpipes today. Whether this arose from a misplaced sense of dignity or imagined subtlety, I can’t say. But in any case, Dennis invited me to attend one of his jury session dinners at Mory’s, and when I got there, he asked me to pitch a group of old Whiffs (I remember Kem was one). I did this in the old style, although I forget the song.

Then Dennis had the new group stand and told the Pitch to extend his arms, whereupon Dennis produced a pair of handcuffs and snapped them on. “OK, now sing” They did perfectly well, I thought, and afterward the new Pitch came to Dennis and extended his wrists. Dennis fumbled around and said he had misplaced the keys. These weren’t toy handcuffs, but as far as I could tell, the real thing. I can’t imagine where Dennis got them.

After some time, Dennis “found” the keys.

From John Stewart (Whiff ’62):

Dennis was very important to the Whiff tradition – always present and contributing, certainly not the least by his unsurpassed and whimsical sense of humor as well as serving a really important part of the connective tissue that binds us together in our love of singing.

From Ken “Popo” Bardach (Whiffs ’65):

… just returned from the memorial service of a cousin who died last month at the age of 95. A brilliant guy: graduated Swarthmore at 15, U of C Law School at 19, and Harvard Law a few years later with a Master’s in international taxation.

Of the 7 speakers, and several from an audience of 150 people, while everyone acknowledged his brilliance and accomplishments, the emphasis was on his Character and his ability to connect with everyone at a level appropriate to each. Also, about his good sense of humor and his enjoyment of a good scotch drink or 2 or 3. Definitely reminded me of our Rhinoce.

At the end of the service, one of his daughters read a poem by Robert Louis Stevenson, a self-written epitaph inscribed on his tomb as suggested by him. It was composed in 1880 after his near to death experiences in 1879. In this short poem, he expresses his wish of where he should be laid after his death.

I think it has applicability to Rhinoce. I hope it has applicability to each of us:

Yet, O stricken heart, remember, O remember
How of human days he lived the better part.
April came to bloom and never dim December
Breathed its killing chills upon the head or heart.

Doomed to know not winter, only Spring, a being
Trod the flowery April blithely for awhile,
Took his fill of music, joy of thought and seeing,
Came and stayed and went, nor ever ceased to smile.

Came and stayed and went, and now when all is finished,
You alone have crossed the melancholy stream,
Yours the pang, but his, O his, the undiminished
Undecaying gladness, undeparted dream.

All that life contains of torture, toil, and treason,
Shame, dishonour, death, to him were but a name.
Here, a boy, he dwelt through all the singing season
And ere the day of sorrow departed as he came.


If and when the time comes to memorialize Rhinoce, let this be his epitaph.

Took his fill of music, joy of thought and seeing,
Came and stayed and went, nor ever ceased to smile.

From Bill Mackoff (’69 Whiffs):

I really just want to give our boy a warm embrace and tell him that I will hold both him and his/our beautiful Anne very close for the rest of my days. Yes, Bottom and Reggie, too. I can’t quite explain it, but what an enormous hole this leaves. I admit that I’m not the best with goodbyes, but this has me reeling.

My thoughts are with you and the rest of your group. The ’69s held a memorial service for Dave Raish less than 2 weeks ago. It appears to be that time of life, a fact which I find to be solace free.

From Rick Miller

Dennis was an accomplished musician as well as a perennial prankster. It is my understanding that it was Dennis who suggested to roommate Bill Hart, Pitchpipe of the ’65 Greats, that Bud De Sylva’s Minnie The Mermaid foxtrot, originally written and recorded as a tenor chorus of a swing orchestra be inverted, dropped an octave; i.e., sent “down to the bottom of the sea”, so it might be sung as a musical joke by ’65’s basso profundo, the towering Jonathan “Dingle” Ingham. Perhaps Dennis, himself, participated in re-scoring the version which is currently in the Whiff Blue Book with original tenor vocal line designated “8va”. Ingham proceeded to make this his own by turning his back to audiences, wrapping tentacle-like long arms around his torso while making loud smooching sounds to the great delight of audiences. It became a staple of several Whiff groups in the ‘60s-‘70s. Ingham further turned the tables on Dennis in later years by showing up at Whiff Alumni concerts in Nantucket and Florida wearing open-collared gauzy white shirt unbuttoned to the navel exposing ample manly “décolletage”, no Whiff tie, sporting loafers without socks, and looking generally déshabillé as if just having left a romp in the bed. Dennis was, of course, a traditionalist to the core and obedient to the Whiffenpoof dress code of Navy blazer, dress shirt, Whiff tie, grey flannel or khaki slacks. He was forever rolling his eyes, unsuccessfully trying to wrangle Ingham to mend his ways and conform to an elite Whiffenpoof esprit de corps.

As a Yale Freshman, it was Dennis’ ’65 Whiffenpoof “Greats” who enchanted me on first hearing and were the paradigm of Whiffenpoof virtue. Later, in the early ‘90s I re-encountered Dennis and Anne while attending a Nantucket Chamber Music Society concert. Dennis immediately corralled me into joining the nascent Nantucket Whiffenpoofs. We became fast friends enjoying Nantucket’s many summer attractions. Eventually, he designated me along with Ed “Ever “Greenberg ’59 and Bob “Swam” Pratter ‘66 as his “consiglière” which, contrary to the Italian advisory meaning, meant “gopher”, “intercessor”, arranger, etc. We communicated constantly by long emails which served primarily as vehicle for self-serving witticisms, all of which was just a vetting for his nominating me to the Name Nuts. But little did I ever imagine that one day in Boston my middle son, Patrick, would meet Dennis’ younger daughter, Eliza, sparking a fine romance. Once Dennis and I learned of their nascent romance, we felt obliged to immediately cease communication-“silent running” as the submariners call it, for fear that anything we might say or do might scotch the whole affair…. Imagine my joy on leaving the operating room late one afternoon to encounter the OR nurse manager beaming, holding up my cell phone in her custody showing a photo of Dennis and Anne smiling with Patrick and Eliza just after he had proposed in Central Park. Soon we were to be not only friends, but related, ultimately sharing two beautiful granddaughters Charlotte and Emerson. Who knows: perhaps one or both will someday become the first Whiffenpoof whose grandfathers were both Whiffenpoofs. The idea tickled Dennis blue. Need I say more?

I know both of these reminiscences are way too long, and I authorize you to perform surgery at your discretion (just be certain your malpractice insurance premium is paid up…)! Anyway, hope it helps you enshrine Dennis’ memory for all Whiffenpoofs past, present, and future. He was everything we say, and more. AMEN


Click here for Dennis’s obituary, first sent by his daughters previous to his published obituary.

Click here for Dennis’s obituary, published in The Inquirer and Mirror.