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Obituary | Hope Cross Nelson, 91, of West Bend, Wi

December 12, 2022West Bend, Wi – Long-time West Bend alderperson and activist Hope Cross Nelson died on December 11, while in hospice care at Ivy Manor in West Bend. She was 91.


Hope was born on March 27, 1931, in South Amboy, NJ, and was raised there and in Trenton, NJ, while her father, Harold G. Hoffman, served as Governor of New Jersey during her youth.

She never lost her New Jersey accent despite living in the Midwest for over 70 years. Hope received a bachelor’s degree in child psychology from Purdue University in 1952. She met her first husband, the late Robert Cross, while at Purdue.

They were married on June 10, 1951, the same day Bob received his degree from Purdue and his commission in the US Navy. They moved to Madison, WI, in 1953, where Bob had his last Navy assignment, teaching ROTC candidates at UW.

They moved to West Bend in 1956, when Bob began his long career teaching high school biology and coaching track and cross-country. They raised a family of seven children while living on a small farm near Little Cedar Lake, where Hope became known in Washington County as the caretaker of last resort for unwanted pets.

She was a champion cook and baker, earning the blue ribbon for her Butter horns at the Wisconsin state fair. Bob Cross died in 1983.

Hope married West Bend resident and high school physics teacher Paul Nelson in 1985 and moved into the City of West Bend. She soon ran successfully for a seat on the West Bend Common Council.

She served as President of the Common Council and was known for her coffee hours at Pick ‘n Save, where she met regularly with her constituents during her many years in office.

Hope was active in several other civic and political organizations, serving as a National Committeewoman on the Democratic National Committee; delegate to the 1972, 1976, and 1980 Democratic National Conventions; chair of the Washington County Democratic Party; and Washington County campaign chair for many national, state, and local candidates.

Hope was a Brownie, Cub Scout, and 4-H leader during the years her children were active in those groups, and she volunteered at the Washington County Fair for several decades, helping to stage and judge the baking competition.

Hope was a volunteer day-camp leader for central city children at the Northcott Neighborhood House in Milwaukee in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and she and Paul were tutors in recent years at Our Next Generation, a nonprofit organization serving children in the central city of Milwaukee.

After Hope retired from office and Paul retired from teaching at West Bend East High School, she and Paul traveled to 30 countries while remaining active in political and charitable causes.

More information on services will be posted when details are available.


  1. I was ever grateful for Mrs. Cross’ influence in my life. She was active in the WauBun Girl Scout Council in the 50’s and sponsored writing contests in the Council’s newsletter. I won awards for my entries both years the contest was held. Mrs. Cross came to my house to “present” my prizes and stayed to give me encouragement to continue writing, which I have done all my life, letters, stories, gift books, and now I am working on a novel. Classmate Emily Mehring also won awards. After all your civic contributions, may your Rest In Peace.

  2. thank you Sue. You expressed what so many of us appreciate with the gifts of Hope Cross. She surely shared them all! When I think of the Cross Family, I think of the energy expended in raising money for the Bob Cross run. The forerunner of Relay for Life. She/Bob and Paul made our community a better place.

  3. I had the fortune of seeing Hope recently, my stepfather a newer resident at Ivy Manor. Her husband Paul Nelson was my physics teacher in the late 80’s, and he was so dutifully and lovingly by her side each day while at Ivy Manor. Our deepest condolences to Paul and the rest of Hope’s family. What a beautiful life and legacy.

  4. One of the greatest women to influence my life, I was honored to know her in my youth and to be reunited just before her passing. She was a pioneer of her day and made a considerable difference in the lives of people and animals alike. Thank you Hope, for giving hope to so many.

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