Ronda May Cross was born in Fort Nelson, B.C., on April 30, 1970, the first child of Dora, a homemaker, and Ernie Kryzanowski, a log-loading contractor in northern B.C.’s then-thriving lumber industry. Ernie’s line of work meant Ronda and her two younger brothers, Cory and Jeff, spent their childhoods criss-crossing the province with their parents: from Quesnel to Houston, Prince George, Burns Lake and beyond.
In Fraser Lake, B.C., Ronda started school and dreamed of one day becoming a flight attendant so that she could travel the world. The constant moving “didn’t bother her at all,” says Ernie. “She could make friends with anybody.” She once stepped up on a milk crate to break into the family’s deep freezer and distributed ice cream bars to all her friends, including a dog. “She was so kind-hearted, she’d always put other people first,” says Ernie. Once, in an orchard in Kelowna, B.C., in yet another new town, Ronda’s brother Jeff found a muddy puddle teeming with tadpoles; much to his dismay, they eventually grew into frogs and disappeared. Ronda, then 12, couldn’t stand to see her brother upset, so she dug up some mud from the puddle and used it to make little clay frogs she hand painted with Jeff. “I was so amazed that she made art out of it, I totally forgot how sad I was that my frogs went away,” says Jeff.
When the family moved to Hazelton, B.C., where Ronda started high school, her athletic side emerged. She joined the school’s track and field team, a figure skating club and a softball team, the Rochettes, named for Hazelton’s Roche de Boule mountain range.
Born and raised on the go, it would be several years before Ronda finally stopped moving. After graduating high school, she lived in Vegreville, Alta., then Toronto, before moving to Prince Albert, Sask., where she worked at a dental clinic. In the late ’90s, Ronda made her way to Calgary where she earned a dental assistant’s certificate from SAIT Polytechnic. After a failed relationship, Ronda briefly lived in a hotel where she met Colin Cross, an IT consultant who happened to be in the same situation, and they started dating. At an outdoor sports show, the couple won free passes for several skydiving jumps in Beiseker, Alta., and didn’t think twice about their next move: they packed up a tent and spent a couple of months living around the landing pad, where they learned to skydive. Soon after, their lives were back on track. Within months, they’d moved to a house in Calgary; the following year they took a trip to Cuba, where Ronda got interested in scuba diving, which Colin had been doing for years.
Back in Calgary, at the Tower Dental Clinic, the always smiling Ronda became a kids’ favourite. She’d trick her little patients into saying “abracadabra” while pedalling the dentist’s chair up and down to make them believe it was magic.
In 2008, Colin and Ronda settled in Elkford, B.C., where Ronda joined the local ski patrol and kept her athletic spirit alive spending hours at the shooting range, hiking, skiing or snowmobiling.
After getting her dive certification, Ronda fell head over heels for the sport. “She went mental over turtles,” says Colin. “She’d forget about me and just follow the turtles.” The two married in 2003 and travelled around the world to dive: Mexico, Hawaii, Australia, the Dominican Republic, to name just a few favourite holidays. Together, they logged over 200 dives.
They especially liked the Bahamas, where they took their beloved pug dog Cosmo 10 times, and where Ronda could enjoy her favourite dish, a refreshing conch salad: lemon-marinated sea snail tossed with chopped celery, onions, peppers and tomato. Cosmo was once mauled by the neighbours’ German shepherd, but Ronda didn’t hold it against them. “I was taking her skiing when we passed these people on the road. She smiled and waved at the them, telling me it was their dog that had roughed up Cosmo,” says Jeff.
On March 3, 2012, Ronda was in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, with her mom and her cousin Roxanne Amundson. Ronda and Roxanne went scuba diving. Roxanne and the instructor were having problems breathing, and got back on board. Ronda, however, having dived deeper, was asphyxiated. She was 41.