Philanthropist Myra Kraft, Wife of Patriots Owner, Dies

By WGBH Staff & Wires


Jul. 20, 2011

In this Oct. 26, 2010 file photo, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, and his wife Myra Kraft speak with volunteers after the completion of a new playground at the Boys & Girls club in Waltham, Mass. Myra Kraft died Wednesday, July 20, 2011 after a battle with cancer. (AP)

FOXBOROUGH, Mass.  — Myra Kraft, the wife of New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and a hard-working philanthropist dedicated to numerous causes, died Wednesday. She was 68.

The NFL team said in a statement that Kraft died Wednesday morning after a battle with cancer.

"We are all heartbroken," the statement said, adding that the philanthropic community has "suffered a great loss."

Myra Hiatt Kraft was an active and powerful force in her family's foundation and served on the boards of varied community and charitable organizations. 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.

In 1995, she became the first woman to chair the Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston, a position she held until 2002. She served the past two years as chair of the board of directors of United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley.

"She dove into everything that she was involved with," said Bob Lobel on WGBH's Emily Rooney Show.

Also on the show, Howard Jacobson, a cousin of Myra Kraft, said there had been an outpouring of support for Myra and her family. "(It's) heartfelt. People are not doing it in form, they're doing it because she touched so many people," Johnson said.

Jacobson reflected on Ms. Kraft's life's work. "There's a Hebrew Biblical tradition that says, 'It is our responsibility to help cure the world,'" Johnson said. "And that's the way she lived. It's remarkable."

"Myra led by example through her hands on commitment to bettering the communities we serve," Michael Durkin, president and CEO of that United Way chapter, said in a statement. "While Myra will be deeply missed, her legacy of kindness to all will remain a beacon of hope in trying times."

She also served as chairwoman of the Combined Jewish Philanthropies and 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.

"With her great heart and magnificent spirit, she lived her life in service to those who needed her help," said Barry Shrage, president of CJP. "Myra loved the land of Israel and the Israeli people and visited as often as she could."

Brandeis president Frederick M. Lawrence, chosen by a search committee on which she served, said, "She was always reaching out to students, faculty and other trustees and served as a model to all of us in so many ways. Myra was not just a philanthropist, she was a humanitarian in both a personal sense and a community sense."

Robert Kraft is chairman of the NFL's Broadcast Committee and a member of its Labor Committee. During his wife's illness, he has been deeply involved with talks to arrive at a new collective bargaining agreement and end the lockout of NFL players.

"On behalf of all NFL players, I want to offer my deepest sympathies to Bob and the Kraft family," NFL Players Association head DeMaurice Smith said. "I know how much he loves Myra. We mourn her loss and the entire player family is with heavy hearts today."

Heath Evans, a New Orleans Saints running back who played for the Patriots from 2006-2008, tweeted: "What made Myra Kraft special? Strong but Tender-hearted/Proud but Humble/Bold but Soft-Spoken/Extremely blessed but lived to be a Blessing."

She married Robert Kraft in June 1963 while she was a student at Brandeis. But she was not, at first, an enthusiastic supporter of her husband's attempts to buy the Patriots, who play just 20 miles from where he grew up in Brookline. He became owner in January 1994, paying $172 million, an NFL record at the time, for a team that was 19-61 the previous five seasons.

"She thought it was nuts," he said in an interview with The Associated Press last January. "She was afraid it would affect our charitable giving and I said, 'We will do more for the community if we run this franchise correctly."

Earlier that month, Robert and Myra Kraft announced a $20-million gift to help attract doctors and nurses to Massachusetts community health centers.

Myra Kraft was the daughter of Jacob Hiatt, who grew up in Lithuania and moved to the United States in 1935. He settled in Worcester, where she was born. Hiatt became president of the E.F. Dodge Paper Box Corp. in Leominster in 1938 and stayed on when it was bought by Whitney Box. The company is now known as the Rand-Whitney Group which Robert Kraft bought in 1972. He now serves as its chairman and chief executive officer.

The Krafts have four sons, Jonathan, Daniel, Joshua and David. Jonathan is president of the Patriots. Daniel is president and CEO of International Forest Products, founded in 1972 by his father. Joshua is president and CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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