Family, friends, co-workers and loved ones came together Monday afternoon to cry and smile at memories big and small of a dynamo woman: Megan Jennifer Cramer.
The 46-year-old server was at the bar at JJ's Restaurant when a gas explosion ripped through at 6:04 p.m. Feb. 19. Cramer, who was trapped, was killed and 15 were injured.
A memorial service was held Monday at the Community Christian Church in Kansas City. Cramer will be laid to rest later this week in her hometown of Springfield.
Her parents, Carter and Genny Cramer, shared their memories of their daughter.
"I know the important thing is she loved and she was loved," Carter Cramer said.
"We talked on the phone the day she died," Genny Cramer told The Associated Press. "She said she was doing well and was getting ready for work. She told us she loved us, and we told her we love her too. It is very sad. We're going to miss her so much."
Carter Cramer said parents should express their love to their children in person and on the phone every opportunity they are given.
However, Cramer was more than a server. She was a poet, a social activist and a former attorney.
"She wasn't somebody who bragged about what she did," Genny Cramer said. "We're finding out lots of things we didn't know and I was so touched to hear."
She said the family has appreciated learning new stories about their daughter since her death.
"Our family knew her as someone who seemed to have been born a wise soul, who had always been a champion for the underdog and for those needing help," Genny Cramer said. "She may have been so in part because she needed help at times herself, and there were always those there to help her. And she tried to pay it forward. She had a catching smile, a healthy laugh, and her eyes and face told us she was listening and she cared. It's no wonder she was our little in-house counselor so often as a child. She was quite good at it."
After graduating from Parkview High School, in Springfield, Cramer attended the University of Missouri-Kansas City as an undergraduate.
While there, she helped found the first chapter of the The Gay and Lesbian Student Alliance. And while studying to become a lawyer, she worked three summers with the Missouri Capital Punishment Resource Center to prepare appeals for prisoners on death row.
She graduated with a law degree in 1994.
After practicing law for a few years in Kansas City, Cramer returned to her first love of working with people as a server, first at the Melting Pot and then at JJ's.
Her family said she loved Kansas City, and didn't want to return to her native Springfield or anywhere else. She loved the museums, the art galleries, the music and the retail areas.
Her family says her sweet smile and kind heart made her treasured by so many with whom she interacted.
In her obituary, her family says she loved people, books, films, writing, laughing, dancing, painting, reading, and her white 1984 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme convertible, named Consuela, which she drove until her father deemed it unsafe at any speed.
Poems written by Cramer were read during the memorial service. One of her poems was entitled "Homecoming," and said, "Scatter me under the black, walnut tree, morphed into a willow."
Another celebration will be held Thursday at 1 p.m. at National Avenue Christian Church at 1515 S. National, in Springfield, MO.
In lieu of flowers, the family is asking that donations be made to a favorite charity in Cramer's name.
"She would have been quite proud and not a bit surprised at Kansas City's rapid and generous response that sprang up to help those injured and out of work so quickly," Genny Cramer said. "Were she still here, I'd like to think she would be one of those trying to be of help."
The family said many have been generous and helpful to them during their time of grieving. They said for those who don't know what to say, that sharing stories of the daughter they love has helped them.
"For Megan, as with most of us, just tried to do the next right thing and may never have realized the impact she had on others and she realized that impact she would have considered it unseemly or bragging to have told us about them," Genny Cramer said. "So we are quite thankful to those of you in the press as well as others who have shared what you have learned about her. You are keeping her alive for us and are validating our belief in her both in life and in death. Thank you for this gift to us and to her."
The family thanked "servers" who help others and bring value to others.
Donations may also be made to the Megan Cramer Memorial Fund c/o The Community Foundation of the Ozarks, P.O. Box 8960 Springfield, MO 65801 or online at Cfozarks.org/donate.
A benefit concert to raise money for the immediate needs of JJ's staff and employees affected by the fire and explosion will be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Uptown Theater.
Jimmy Frantze, JJ's owner, opened the restaurant in 1985 and quickly found success.
The beloved Kansas City fixture offered a legendary wine list, well-reviewed food, hospitable staff and its intimate setting made JJ's a smart choice for everything from popping a cork on a rare varietal to popping the question.
Oenophiles coveted its knockout wine list, by some estimates 1,800 bottles deep. In 2005, JJ's won its second Grand Award from Wine Spectator magazine, one of only 84 restaurants worldwide to earn the honor that year.
Copyright 2013 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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