Archive for Thursday, June 17, 2004

Family, friends cope with teen’s unexpected death

June 17, 2004

Family and friends of Krystal Bateson are dealing the best they can with the shocking death of the 13-year-old Baldwin girl Sunday morning in Winfield.

The cause of death is unknown. Krystal was rushed to the Winfield hospital early Sunday morning after her mother, Theresa Bateson, awoke and found Krystal unresponsive. Krystal was pronounced dead later at the hospital.

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"I would like to say that Sunday has to be the worst day of my life," said Julie Craig, who was also in Winfield with a softball team that her daughter, Callie, and Krystal played for.

"Krystal and the rest of our team and parents had a wonderful day Saturday," said Craig, who lives in rural Baldwin. "We won our games, laughed, fed ducks at a local pond, ate a great supper at a steak house near our motel and there was no sign of what would happen the next morning."

Remembering Krystal

Members of the Lawrence Phenix Under-14 softball team didn't play the second round of the tournament in Winfield Sunday. The shock and grief from the loss of their first baseman and clean-up hitter was way too much.

Instead, they headed home amid tears and torn hearts.

"She was my really good friend," said Callie Craig. "She was on my softball team for three years. We've gone to school together since kindergarten. What I'll remember is her laugh and how she was always happy and in a good mood and everything."

There is no happiness now for the team, Krystal's family or friends. What they do have are the memories, such as those shared by Mackenzie Elder, a school friend of Krystal's who, along with Callie and Diane Weege, will be honorary pall bearers at Krystal's funeral today.

"She was one of the nicest girls I'll ever meet," Mackenzie said, fighting back the tears as she spoke. "I'll always think about her and she'll always be in my heart.

"She was always smiling. I never saw her frown. I never saw her cry," Mackenzie said. "She always brought people up and never brought them down. She was a really good friend."

The team will be in uniform at today's funeral to pay their respects.

"At the funeral, we're going to have flowers in the shape of a two because that was her number," said Callie. "We've also embroidered a number two on all of our jerseys."

The team travels all over the country playing competitive softball. For awhile, it was unclear if they'd play again this season, including a rare appearance at a tournament in Lawrence this weekend. The team took a vote.

"Most everyone decided we wanted to play this weekend in Lawrence and dedicate the tournament to Krystal," said Callie.

Other teams, other memories

Krystal didn't just play softball. She played basketball, was active in 4-H and was an outstanding student at Baldwin Junior High School, where she just graduated with honors. Along the way, she touched many lives, those close to her said.

The first try getting by without her was Monday.

"Callie and her friends played basketball Monday night at the high school without their teammate, Krystal," said Julie Craig. "They voted to play and thought that it would help to keep going with life. They found it very difficult to play so soon after losing Krystal and had many tearful moments.

"We will all miss her," said Craig. "I've never felt such deep sadness."

Another common theme of those who knew Krystal involved her love of animals. She showed sheep at the Douglas County Fair, as well as numerous other 4-H-related activities.

"She was in 4-H for a long time, so we'd always see her at the fair," said Mackenzie Elder. "She had rabbits. She had cats. She really liked animals.

"I didn't meet her until sixth grade and that's when we started becoming friends," she said.

Krystal left a lasting impression on her friends and their parents.

"Callie will remember Krystal as her classmate from elementary through junior high, through 4-H and many sports teams," said Craig. "She was a wonderful girl who was a treasured friend. She was a joy to spend time with and always had a joke and a smile for her friends. She lived life with purpose. She worked hard and loved playing sports."

Helping out

Krystal's teammates and friends gathered Tuesday and met with a grief counselor. They made a collage of pictures that was displayed at the funeral home. The session helped to start ease the pain.

"I think it helped a little," said Callie. "It was weird at first, but I think it helped."

But support has come from others who have had similar experiences. Friends of Cliff Sudja, a 18-year-old Baldwin High School graduate who died in a car accident in September, have e-mailed and called the girls to let them know they've been there, too.

"It helps so much to know that people know how I'm feeling," said Mackenzie Elder. "It helps to be around people who cared as much about her as I did."

Visitation for Krystal was Wednesday night at Warren-McElwain Mortuary in Lawrence. The funeral is today at 2 p.m. at the First United Methodist Church in Baldwin City. Burial will follow in Maple Grove Cemetery, Lawrence.

The Krystal Lynne Bateson Memorial Fund has been set up at Baldwin State Bank. Donations can be sent in care of the mortuary, 120 W. 13th St. Lawrence, KS, 66044 or to Baldwin State Bank, P.O. Box 46, Baldwin City, KS, 66006.

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