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A Climber We Lost: Terry Cross, Inventor of Armaid, Dec. 22

Inventor of the Armaid, opera singer, massage therapist and professional deep-sea diver.

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You can read the full tribute to Climbers We Lost in 2021 here.

Terry Cross

70, December 22

Terry Cross was an unlikely member of the climbing community. He didn’t climb. Rather, he helped climbers with an invention, the Armaid, a DIY tool for elbow and wrist tendinitis.

Cross imagined the Armaid in 1997 after getting tendinitis from overuse while working as a sports-massage therapist. Using his knowledge of trigger-points—painfully tight muscle groups—he healed himself, and wondered whether he could build a device that would let anyone with similar issues help themselves.

Terry Cross during his operatic days in San Diego.

His epiphany: It’s nearly impossible to crack a nut with just your hands, but a nutcracker makes the task easy. And the Armaid, a large nutcracker-looking device that lets an unskilled user apply tripper-point pressure along the arm and break up knotty tissue, was born. Terry traveled the country, living out of his car at times, dropping in on outdoor and climbing shops and trade shows to promote his muscle-cracking device. When he walked into the offices in Carbondale, Colorado, I had a sore elbow. He had just the thing, a new version of the Armaid about to go into production.

Later, at an Italian restaurant, Terry ate three baskets of bread, four sides, an entrée and dessert. “I’m a big guy,” he said, then asked if I was going to eat my rolls. When he finished, he stood and, unannounced, belted out measures from an opera.  All diners dropped their forks. When Terry quieted, they applauded. “Is that The Barber of Seville by Rossini?” a woman asked. It was.

Terry wasn’t trained in opera. But he was admittedly loud—once you met him you didn’t forget—and he had a good ear. By profession he was a deep-sea construction diver and spent 15 years in the waters off Southeast Asia burrowing along the ocean bottom. Alone in the briney dark he’d sing  40 fathoms down off Borneo.

In San Diego in his mid 30s he took 10 voice lessons. He couldn’t read music but auditioned at the San Diego Opera Chorus—and got the job. “I was surrounded by serious musicians who’d studied voice all their adult lives,” he said. “There was a lot of pressure. On my cassette tape player I’d record my teacher singing my parts, and then I’d go home and repeat everything note for note while learning to pronounce libretto in French, Italian or German.”

Terry sang for 11 years, then in the early 1980s hung up his cape to become a holistic healthcare practitioner, using his immense frame—he must have been six five and 250—to knead human muscles and tendons back into working order. He once used his tennis-racquet hands to crack my sore neck, a moment in time that still lingers.

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Terry parlayed his zeal for helping people and his experience in massage therapy into his Armaid business—and Armaid received a 2016 Editor’s Choice award from Climbing.

Although he was born in Southern California, Terry set up in Blue Hill, Maine, a small coastal town once known for shipbuilding and the discovery of a Viking penny. He said the area was right for him, with majestic skies and quiet expanses of forest and ocean. At Armaid’s operations he’d sing, says Maura Tillotson, a co worker, and “knowing the he was helping others was an enormous sense of joy. Hearing daily testimonials from Armaid fans made his day!”

Terry Cross died in an automobile accident on December 22 near his Armaid offices.