Myra Kraft remembered for philanthropy, empathy
NEWTON - In a tender remembrance, Myra H. Kraft was recalled yesterday as a loving family woman and a committed philanthropist who devoted much of her life to helping people and inspiring others to do the same.
“She saw the world with empathetic eyes,’’ said Kraft’s son, Jonathan Kraft. “She went through life thinking about others.’’
Well over 1,000 mourners, including luminaries from the political, sports, and financial worlds, attended the morning memorial service, held at Temple Emanuel in Newton.
Among them were Governor Deval Patrick, real estate tycoon Donald Trump, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, and many current and past
“Who else but Myra could bring such an eclectic bunch together?’’ asked Rabbi Wes Gardenswartz, who led the service and observed how it crossed religious, class, and racial lines. “Only one person on the planet. Only Myra could.’’
Myra Kraft, the wife of New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and a prominent figure in charitable circles, died of cancer Wednesday in her Brookline home. She was 68.
Myra Kraft, a pillar of the Jewish community and an advocate for Israel, embraced charitable causes near and far and worked tirelessly on their behalf. Since marrying in 1963, the Krafts have donated more than $100 million to an array of organizations, including the Boys and Girls Clubs of Boston; Brandeis University, her alma mater; and Partners Healthcare, to encourage doctors to serve the needy. Myra Kraft was typically involved with the organizations she gave to, from the boardroom to the warehouse floor.
“She didn’t just write checks,’’ Gardenswartz said, telling of Kraft serving food to the needy or filling bags of clothes. “She was down in the trenches, doing real work for real people.’’
She had a special attachment to Israel, where she traveled several times a year, and drummed up support to help the country.
“She loved every shrub and tree and rock and flower,’’ said Barry Shrage, president of Combined Jewish Philanthropies. “She was an angel of mercy when Israel was in need.’’
Shrage said that Kraft’s death will leave an enormous void and that “something had been irreparably broken’’ by her passing.
In emotional eulogies, three of Kraft’s four sons remembered their mother’s unwavering devotion to her family and her enduring love affair with her husband over nearly five decades.
“She was truly his partner, his confidant, and his best friend,’’ recalled Jonathan Kraft. “And he hers.’’
Kraft said that his parents were eager to start a family after they married and that his mother never tired of reminding him he was born just over nine months later.
In the past few months, the couple spent nearly all their time together, said their son Joshua. Robert would rub her feet while she rested and lay his head on her lap. Again and again, they would say they loved each other.
The Krafts had recently celebrated their 48th wedding anniversary, and Joshua said the family will continue to celebrate their love each passing year.
“By no means is it their last anniversary,’’ he said.
Near the start of the service, the sweet, low strains of “Moon River’’ filled the temple. It was their song, Gardenswartz said, the song sung at their wedding.
Gardenswartz said the couple shared a “complete and profound’’ love that guided both their lives and provided the foundation for their charitable work that touched countless lives.
“Myra belonged to the world,’’ he said, “because she saw the world and she changed it, one person at a time.’’
Kraft was happiest with her family and cherished their time together, her eulogists said. On Fridays in the summer, she would spend hours preparing the Shabbat meal, cutting and grilling the fish and picking vegetables from the garden she had planted herself for a “magnificent feast,’’ Gardenswartz said.
“Myra’s family was always uppermost in her mind,’’ he said.
She was a fixture at her grandchildren’s events, Joshua Kraft said, cheering them on at games, plays, and dance recitals. But like her charitable work, her involvement went deeper. She knew their friends, their teachers, even the school projects they were working on, he said.
The day before she died, Kraft helped pick out a prayer shawl for her grandchild’s Bat Mitzvah later this year, Gardenswartz said. She knew she would not live to see it, but wanted to help pick out an outfit made in Israel, as she had for her other grandchildren.
“Your grandmother so loved you,’’ he said. “With her very last day she was thinking about you and your Jewish future.’’
After the service, the grandchildren helped load the coffin into the hearse, and several wept.
Kraft’s sons spoke of an idyllic childhood but added that their mother went out of her way to show them that many were far less fortunate. During a trip to South Africa under apartheid, Kraft saw police officers arresting a group of black men, Jonathan Kraft recalled. Outraged, she immediately confronted the white officers, asking them what the men had done wrong. Told they did not have the proper documents to be in the city past nightfall, she told them she didn’t have any such documents, either.
“So arrest me, too!’’ Jonathan recalled his mother saying. Fearing trouble, he picked up his diminutive mother and carried her away before things escalated. All the while, she was still shouting at the officers.
That sense of right and wrong, he said, motivated her to do good in the world and helped her forge a legacy that “my brothers and I can only aspire to.’’
On the same trip, Myra Kraft took her son David to a shantytown a few miles from their hotel, to see how blacks lived under white rule. It was hard to see, he said, but his mother wanted to make sure their trip was not just about safaris and visits to gold mines.
Other well-known figures at the service were Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley,
Peter Schworm can be reached at email@example.com.