By Bob Reilly

This year, I had the opportunity to have a booth set up for the annual Main Street Festival in Laurel in May. My primary goal was to promote my business, Weinot Productions, sign books and pass out copies of The Laurel Independent.

My secondary goal was to write a story.

If you’re reading this column today, then I’m happy to say I accomplished my two goals.

When members of the Laurel Amateur Radio Club (LARC) walked by during the festival’s parade, I noticed a sprightly guy wearing jeans, a yellow golf shirt and a yellow cap with the embossed letters WI3N. My friend, Jim Cross.

Jim Cross
Photo Credit: Bob Reilly

I’ve known the Cross family for over 30 years, and I’m glad to share some insights about Jim and his wife, Laurel.

 “I’m 75 years old and have lived in Laurel since 1953. Yep, a 70-year resident,” said Cross, when we caught up to chat a week later. “My family moved to Laurel in 1953, and my father was directly involved in the transition from telephone switchboard operations to rotary dial telephones.”

Cross is deeply passionate about amateur radio communications technology in general. He sits on LARC’s board and the WI3N lettering on his cap is an amateur radio call sign issued and controlled by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). 

“In 1963 I was in the 10th grade at Laurel High School. Our shop teacher Mr. Dannels brought a ham radio friend, Bill Maida, into the classroom, who introduced us to amateur radio.”

Dannels and Maida started a tech class that Jim and his friends joined. They learned basic electronics, Morse code and the fundamentals of amateur radio, Cross said. 

“Shortly thereafter, I got my novice license, and that was the beginning of the process,” he said. “Eventually, my license expired, and I renewed it in 1989.”

LARC, founded in 1979, is one of 14 Volunteer Examiner Coordinators (VECs) approved by the FCC to be an amateur radio operator. It is one of two clubs across the country to administer exams. 

LARC is a gift to the Laurel community. It is active in many capacities, including providing communication and coordination assistance for the Main Street Festival, setting up the parade for the July 4th celebration, operating a station next to the city’s Emergency Operations Center to provide backup communications in the event of an emergency, and helping with other community events such as 10k runs.

“We have a public event on June 24 and 25 at Riverfront Park for our annual Field Day event. It runs from 2 p.m. Saturday to 2 p.m. Sunday,” Cross said. “People can learn what we do as we get on the air and make contact with other stations around the country, and maybe the world.”

 In addition to his role with the club, Cross is chairperson for The Laurel Board of Trade, the organization responsible for starting the Main Street Festival and parade, in 1981. His wife, Laurel, has been the parade coordinator since 2013.

Laurel and Jim Cross
Photo Caption: Jim Cross

“A big part of my role is to make contact with prior parade participants and manage their future involvement intentions. Then, of course, the day of the parade itself is a major undertaking,” Laurel Cross said. “This year we had approximately 50 groups, 80 vehicles and 900 people in the parade. Just the sheer number of people participating is a challenge in itself.”

Laurel Cross is a native of Niagara Falls, New York. She moved to the city of Laurel after she graduated from nursing school and married Jim Cross. She has been actively involved with the General Federation of Woman’s Club of Laurel for over 30 years. She is very proud of the club, its history and its contributions to the community. The club is part of the General Federation of Woman’s Club (GFWC) organized in 1910.

“The club is very well-known for its philanthropic focus and rich history advocating for women’s rights, the suffrage movement and the building of libraries,” Laurel Cross said. “We manage a local award-winning project called the Weekend Tummy Tamers. Each week we prepare 35 meals for students and their families at Scotchtown Elementary School.”

When I asked Jim Cross what he liked most about living in Laurel, he responded, “Well, you could honestly say I’m literally and figuratively married to Laurel. My wife’s name is Laurel.” He continued, “I’m also married to the city of Laurel because it’s the life I’ve always known growing up. My schooling, church life, married life, family, friends, work life and community are here. This is my home.”


If you’re interested in finding out more about The Laurel Board of Trade, go to; The Laurel Amateur Radio Club, go to or GFWC Woman’s Club of Laurel, go to; You can also email Jim Cross at