David Epstein
Tuesday April 23rd, 2013

Krystle Campbell, 30, touched nearly everyone who crossed her path.
/Reuters

Krystle Campbell made friends easily, and it showed. According to her grandmother, Lillian, the 29-year-old Campbell had been a bridesmaid on at least 17 occasions. She was, in short, exactly the person you expect at the finish line of a marathon. She went every year. She went because of what it is: a freely accessed carnival of inspiration that forces spectators of all ages, creeds, colors, classes, and rooting interests to touch shoulders and scream. To shout momentarily for their friends, and the rest of the time for bedraggled strangers, many of whom have written their names on their shirts for the one day of the year on which such a thing can facilitate precisely that kind of support. Krystle went because she liked talking to strangers. "She loved people," Lillian, says. "No one could be depressed around her."

That's what made her so good at her restaurant jobs, which often had her working 70-80 hours a week. Campbell, raised in Medford, Mass., began working as a waitress in high school. A video preserved online shows her in 2009, working at Jasper White's Summer Shack, preparing an all-you-can-eat hot dog contest to make use of the remaining stock on the last weekend of the summer. Wearing a navy polo, black-rimmed glasses, and a profoundly relaxed, hands-in-pockets pose, Campbell narrates: "we'll have ketchup and mustard, and," with a mischievous smile that raised her light freckles, "red buckets, just in case someone needs to get sick."

When Campbell moved on last year to Jimmy's Steer House in Arlington, Mass., she was a dining room manager, overseeing more than 45 waiters and waitresses. According to Lindsay, another dining room manager who asked that only her first name be used, the restaurant is hectic, and "being able to stay calm and kind and treat everybody with as much dignity as possible" was a strong suit for Campbell. Another was her ability to discern a customer who was complaining because of a legitimate service problem and one who was simply agitating in hope of a free meal -- and to bring preternatural calm to both types. "You have to be able to read people," Lindsay says, "and that's what she was good at."

Campbell had been at the finish line last Monday with friend Karen Rand, to cheer on Karen's boyfriend. In the initial confusion after the explosions, Campbell's family was told that she was injured but alive, while Karen had died. The gut-wrenching mistake was only corrected when Campbell's father saw Karen, not his daughter, in the hospital bed.

The following day, Campbell's mother, Patty, read a statement from her porch in Medford. She stepped toward the microphones, slipped on her glasses, and began to read, every third word disappearing deep in her throat. "We are heartbroken at the death of our daughter Krystal Marie. She was a wonderful person." Patty lowered the sheet of paper, and took off her glasses. Her son Billy put his arm around her, and she began to speak faster, and more freely. "Everybody that knew her loved her, she loved her dogs ..." Patty trailed off momentarily, and then began a rapid succession. "She had a heart of gold. She was always smiling. You couldn't ask for a better daughter. I can't believe this has happened. She was such a hard worker in everything she did. This doesn't make any sense." Billy began to guide her inside. "She was the best, you couldn't ask for a better daughter."

Three years ago, after Lillian had colon surgery, Campbell moved in with her for a year and a half, frequently taking a morning off work to bring her grandmother to doctor's appointments. The family was set to celebrate Campbell's birthday at Lillian's on May 3. Her grandmother had already begun ribbing her about "the big 3-0," drawing, simultaneously, Campbell's admonishment and a big hug.

"It's said to lose somebody like that," Lillian says, "because they're so few and far between."

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