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Heirs continue Elmhurst brothers' support of museum

ELMHURST – Robert and Theodore Kross, better known to the people of Elmhurst as Bob and Ted, continued their service to their beloved community even after their deaths.

"Ted in particular discovered a special affinity for Elmhurst history," said Elmhurst Historical Museum Director Brian Bergheger.

Their nieces and nephews traveled to Elmhurst from their homes around the country to present a check Monday for $70,000 from the Kross brothers' estate to the Elmhurst Heritage Foundation.

"These two gentlemen epitomize what we have come to know as the greatest generation," said Gene Evans, president of the Elmhurst Heritage Foundation. "Both of them served their country in World War II. Both of them believe in community."

Earmarked for the foundation's Visionary Voices campaign, the donation will go toward the creation of a new History of Elmhurst exhibit at the Elmhurst Historical Museum set to open in the fall of 2014.

The current Elmhurst exhibit on the museum's second floor was installed in 1987. While details of the new exhibit are still underway, Bergheger said it would most likely include more multimedia.

"It's a very nice exhibit, but it is also very static," said Willis Johnson, co-chair of the Visionary Voices campaign, of the current exhibit. "In these times we need to be a little more dynamic and interactive with people."

The project is an extention of the Kross brothers' work, especially Ted's. A weekly volunteer at the museum, Ted Kross spent his Tuesdays researching and chronicling Elmhurst family trees.

Visionary Voices co-chair Val Stewart recalled meeting Ted Kross while working on her own research on the local Board of Education history. Excitedly, Stewart turned to the stranger to share her most recent discovery. She'd found a photo of a Hawthorne School teacher with her class in 1895 with names written on the back and the woman's salary ($52 a month) in the Board of Education minutes.

Stewart remembers Ted Kross asking if she'd like to know more about the teacher, looking her name up in the book of family trees he was compiling and rattling off a handful of biographical details about Hattie Glos.

Elmhurst Mayor Steve Morley recounted his own first encounter with Ted Kross at the museum writing his research in the tiniest handwriting.

"You can't read it in a book," said Morley. "You can't go see it, but when you meet people, you understand the dedication and the pride people have here in Elmhurst. It's really embodied in people like Ted and Robert."

Lifelong residents of Elmhurst, the brothers both graduated from York High School and Elmhurst College. Ted died at 95 years old, just months before Bob, 91, died in 2011. They both spent their lives working and giving back to the community in which they grew up.

"Those are the kind of things that make Elmhurst what it is today," Morley said of the brothers' commitment to Elmhurst.

The Elmhurst Heritage Foundation aims to raise a total of $250,000 for the new exhibit, and Monday marked the campaign's public launch.

"Hopefully that gets your capital campaign off to a very good start," said Bob Plassman, the Kross brothers' nephew who traveled from North Carolina to personally deliver the check.

Those interested in donating can visit or attend the Visionary Voices Gala Nov. 2.

"I do believe in my heart that this gift will serve as a model for other people in Elmhurst," Bergheger said.

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