Singer raises funds for children's hospitals with monthly show (video)

Sonny Long

Sept. 20, 2013 at 4:20 a.m.

Vickie Cross leans down to sing to Martha McElreath during a free performance Tuesday at Twin Pines Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Victoria. The performance was the first time McElreath had heard Cross sing. "I enjoyed it greatly," she said. "She sings so nicely."

Vickie Cross leans down to sing to Martha McElreath during a free performance Tuesday at Twin Pines Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Victoria. The performance was the first time McElreath had heard Cross sing. "I enjoyed it greatly," she said. "She sings so nicely."   Angeli Wright for The Victoria Advocate

WEESATCHE - Vickie Cross has a song on her lips and love in her heart.

"My voice is a gift that I've been given, and I know who gave it to me," said Cross, who turns 60 in November. "I try to always give back whatever I can."

Part of the giving is a monthly event at Victoria's Ramsey's Restaurant, in which donations are collected for either St. Jude Children's Research Hospital or Shriners Hospitals for Children.

Cross, who along with husband Darvin Borgfeld was a foster parent to more than 70 children during a 14-year period, said her "tip bucket" shows are her way of continuing to make a difference.

"I don't foster anymore. It's something I can still do for the kids without being with them 24 hours a day," she said.

"Those two hospitals are irreplaceable on this Earth. They make a huge contribution to humanity, and this is a way I can contribute to that."

Cross almost wasn't around to make any contributions.

In 2008, lupus anticoagulants threatened her lungs and her life.

"My doctor told me to forget about singing anymore," Cross said. "I told him that I have a higher physician that will decide that for me."

Continue to sing, she has - performing for free at nursing homes, area festivals and RV parks for some of her favorite audiences of winter Texans.

"I try to be an advocate for them, too" Cross said of the senior set. "If you still have a dream, it's never too late to pursue it.

"It doesn't matter how old you are, how fat you are or what other people think you are - you need to pursue it."

Cross was most influenced musically by her father, Charles Riemenschneider, who played guitar and sang while Cross was growing up in the Weesatche house she still lives in.

Even today, Riemenschneider, who is in his 80s, sits on the front porch and plays guitar.

"When I was growing up, he had a guitar that we knew not to touch. It wasn't a toy, he told us," Cross recalled.

But Cross touched it anyway, teaching herself to play when her parents were out of the house on grocery runs to Victoria on Thursdays.

"They came home early one time, and he caught me," she said. "But he told me to keep playing."

Her father bought Cross her own guitar when she was 15.

"As a teenager in the early '60s, we walked around with beads in our hair, and that guitar went everywhere with me," she said.

After graduating from Goliad High School, Cross received her food service consultant degree at St. Edward's University in Austin and worked in that field for 17 years, including stints as food service director in the Goliad and Karnes City school districts.

It wasn't until she and Darvin went into the restaurant business that Cross got serious about singing.

The couple bought and ran the Farmer's Table Restaurant in Weesatche for seven years, and at one point, Cross added a karaoke machine and began singing at the restaurant - at age 50.

When she became ill in 2008, Cross recorded some songs onto a cassette tape to leave for her two adopted children.

She was told that no one listens to cassettes and went to a studio in Rockport to have them transferred to a compact disc.

Told the transfer would take about four hours, Cross went to the beach to wait but within minutes received a phone call from the studio.

"They loved the songs," she said. "They wanted to know if I could write, too. So I began writing songs for radio release. That really got the ball rolling."

Among Cross' most popular original songs are "The Little Angel Down the Hall," which she wrote for her first foster child who asked a million questions about God; "Somebody's Girl;" and "Everlasting Love," which she wrote for her 25th wedding anniversary.

Outside the studio, Cross keeps her performances simple.

"I pretty much sing karaoke," she said. "Yes, I do things in a bigger way for radio, and I write songs, but basically, when I perform, I sing karaoke. People want to hear songs they know, and that's what I sing.

"I write country gospel, and that's what I do for radio when I go out and sing. I sing country - pure country cover songs."

Suzi Warzecha, who owns SoHo Emporium in Goliad with husband Newton Warzecha, said Cross is "an incredible lady."

Cross has performed at Warzecha's business for about a decade during events on the Goliad square.

"We appreciate her so much," Warzecha said. "She has done a lot of good for a lot of people. She is one of the most caring and loving people I know.

"She sings from her heart."

In addition to entertaining audiences, Cross also delivers a message in her church ministry.

Between songs, she'll talk about her life and its struggles.

"I tell people I do three things: pray about it, believe in God and in yourself then just do it. No one is going to do it for you."

Cross, whose voice has been compared to Patsy Cline's, said she is surprised that her singing has caught on like it has.

"I think people who see me for the first time are a little bit shocked," she said. "It's hard for a fat lady over 50 to get up on a stage and sing in front of people.

"You hear the little snickers.

"Then it blows me away when I know I've got them. The same ones that were whispering about me, come up and tell me how much I have impressed them."

"I am blessed," she said. "Every day is an absolute blessing. I feel undeserving. I take it humbly."



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