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Sunday, May 11, 2003 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Crystal Brame is honored, laid to rest

Seattle Times staff reporter

GIG HARBOR — It was clear from the size of the crowd and sea of purple ribbons that there was more to Crystal Brame's funeral than remembering the life of a young mother.

Now synonymous with the worst possible outcome of domestic violence, Crystal Brame was mourned by around 500 people — many of whom had never met her — at Chapel Hill Presbyterian Church in Gig Harbor yesterday.

She had died one week earlier, seven days after being shot by her estranged husband, Tacoma Police Chief David Brame.

"In losing Crystal, this family has lost a mother, a daughter, a sister and a friend," said Pastor Mark Toone. "As a community we have lost something almost as personal, the sense that children can play carefree and that we can be safe from another's terrible anger."

Family friend Brad Chatfield remembered her as a woman with infectious energy who put other people's happiness in front of her own.

"We now know she lived in fear; she hid that from us, as long as she could she tried to spare us from that," he said.

Speakers sought to find comfort in the hope that her story will save other women.

"We can help prevent this tragedy from ever happening again; that will be Crystal's greatest legacy," Chatfield said.

"I suspect there are people here who are locked in a destructive relationship," Toone said. "Let this casket be a wake-up call."

A photo montage showing Crystal Brame as a grinning young girl wearing ice-skating costumes, tutus and cheerleader sweaters was difficult to reconcile with the object lesson she has become in death.

David Brame shot his wife and then himself April 26 in a Gig Harbor parking lot as their two children sat in his car nearby. He died that day and was buried in a low-key service May 3, the same day Crystal Brame died at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.

Tacoma held a public ceremony Friday to give the community a chance to mourn, but many strangers also attended yesterday's memorial service.

A woman wearing a purple ribbon, for domestic-violence awareness, sat in the back clutching a tear-dampened tissue even though she never knew Crystal Brame. "I didn't know her but I wish I had," said the woman, who asked that her name not be used. "I just wanted to support her family by just being here."

In his eulogy, Pierce County Sheriff's Chaplain Alvie Robbins read a letter from Crystal Brame's 8-year-old daughter. "She was the best mom in the whole world. ... Her priority was me and (my) little (brother). I loved my mom so much and she loved me."

In the front pew, the two children were comforted by Crystal Brame's sister and brother-in-law, Julie and Dave Ahrens. Crystal Brame's parents, Patty and Lane Judson, clung to each other. Tacoma Mayor Bill Baarsma attended but did not comment.

A smaller group of family and friends later watched as she was buried at Haven of Rest Memorial Park, on a grassy slope with a sweeping view of Puget Sound.

Memorial contributions may be made to The Brame Children's Fund at TAPCO Credit Union, 6312 19th St. W., Tacoma, WA 98466.

Julia Sommerfeld: 206-464-2708 or jsommerfeld@seattletimes.com

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