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Myra Kraft remembered as loving wife, dedicated philanthropist

NEWTON, Mass. -- Myra Kraft had a near-constant companion in the past four months -- her husband, Robert.

Busy with his active role in the NFL labor negotiations, the owner of the New England Patriots knew what mattered most.

"There was no greater bond anywhere than the bond between her and my dad," Josh Kraft, one of the couple's four sons, said at his mother's funeral service Friday. "If we took all the hours in those four months, they were together for 90 percent of those hours.

"And dad would be rubbing her feet, holding her hand, putting his head on her lap. And she'd be patting his head, telling each other how much they loved each other."

Myra Hiatt Kraft died of cancer Wednesday at the age of 68, about one month after the couple's 48th wedding anniversary.

Friday's 80-minute service at Temple Emanuel drew about 1,500 people -- including those from the worlds of football and philanthropy -- on a sunny day with the temperature in the 90s.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith were there as player representatives elsewhere were reviewing terms of a tentative agreement that owners overwhelmingly approved Thursday in Atlanta.

"There was never any doubt," Goodell said of whether or not he would attend the funeral. "She just meant so much to all of us. She just made the world a better place."

She managed the Robert and Myra Kraft Family Foundation and was president of the New England Patriots Charitable Foundation, which contributed millions of dollars to charities in the United States and Israel. From 1995 to 2002, she was the first woman to chair the Boys and Girls Clubs of Boston. For the past two years, she was chair of the board of directors of United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley.

"Myra didn't only write checks," Rabbi Wes Gardenswartz said at the service. "All the pictures that we see of her show her in the trenches, serving food in the kitchens, packing the bags full of clothes that are going to be donated. In the trenches, doing real work with real people that is helpful to real people."

Myra Kraft also served as chairwoman of the Combined Jewish Philanthropies, and she also was on the board of directors of the American Repertory Theatre, Brigham and Women's Hospital, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Boston, and Brandeis University, where she graduated in 1964.

"My mother," said Jonathan Kraft, president of the Patriots, "she lived her life looking at the world through empathetic eyes."

Myra Kraft was remembered as a hands-on participant in causes in which she donated millions of dollars, a loving mother and wife, and a fighter against injustice.

And, of course, for her chicken noodle soup.

Curtis Martin, who spent the first three years of his 11-year NFL career with the Patriots, remembers his rookie season when Myra Kraft knew the running back was alone in New England.

"She always made this great chicken soup," Martin said. "She would always offer (some). It was the best chicken noodle soup that I've ever had. And I think because she was such a loving person, the effort that she put into everything and that she did with everyone will always be remembered."

Many former Patriots -- Drew Bledsoe, Troy Brown, Tedy Bruschi, Rodney Harrison, Ty Law, Willie McGinest, Richard Seymour and Joe Andruzzi -- attended the funeral. Current Patriots in attendance included Tom Brady, Logan Mankins, Vince Wilfork, Wes Welker, Jerod Mayo and Dan Koppen. Patriots coach Bill Belichick and his assistants also were there.

So was former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue and team owners Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys, Jerry Richardson of the Carolina Panthers, John Mara of the New York Giants and Dan Snyder of the Washington Redskins. Owners John Henry of the Boston Red Sox and Wyc Grousbeck and Steve Pagliuca of the Boston Celtics also were there.

Gov. Deval Patrick of Massachusetts, Mayor Thomas Menino of Boston and Donald Trump also attended.

Bledsoe recalled the few times he and his wife had dinner in the Krafts' kitchen.

"It was just like being at home, and she really took care of us," the former quarterback said. "She had that personal touch with everybody that she met, while at the same time having a truly global impact on the world."

Jonathan recalled a 1983 family trip to Johannesburg, South Africa, when apartheid was still in force, for a convention in the paper industry, the family's primary business at the time. He said he and his diminutive mother saw a white policeman arresting black men and she asked the officer what he was doing.

"The police officer said, 'We're arresting these men. They don't have the proper ID to be in the city after dusk,' " Jonathan said. "And my mother said to him, 'Well, I don't have the proper ID either. Arrest me.' And she held her hands out."

Jonathan said he put his mother over his shoulder and carried her away.

"The legacy that she has left for my brothers and I is one we can only aspire to," he said. "We will never be able to match it."

Last Feb. 15, Myra Kraft had surgery. But five days later, she made it to the Bar Mitzvah of her grandson, Harry.

Less than a month after that, the NFL lockout began, making demands on her husband's time.

"They had so much respect for one another, so much love for one another," Goodell said. "You particularly saw it in the last few months when Robert was so helpful in our labor negotiations, but he was always there for Myra."

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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