Two weeks ago, Kryste Buoniconti cleared out some clothes she’d been keeping since the death of her Army pilot husband three years ago.
“Time to let more of his things go to better use,” the DuPont mother of three wrote on Facebook.
She took Chief Warrant Officer 3 Frank Buoniconti’s things to an Olympia shelter, and sneaked a note into one of the coat pockets:
“This coat belonged to Frank. He was 36 when he died in service of our country. He would have wanted you to be warm. Be warm. Be well.”
The note was a small gesture among the many projects Buoniconti has launched in memory of her late husband, who was killed with three other pilots on Dec. 12, 2011, when their helicopters collided in a Joint Base Lewis-McChord training accident.
“I had to, just had to put this note in one of the pockets,” she wrote when she shared a photo of the note.
Kryste is the founder of Live Your Love Loud, a nonprofit group that has raised money to help military families adopt children and taken on other projects in Frank’s memory. She’s also a mom who has raised three kids on her own since her high school sweetheart’s death.
Her nonprofit aims to carry on Frank’s spirit. She describes Frank as a serious pilot who’d be relentlessly generous and fun with loved ones and strangers alike. The couple had a “heart for orphans” all their lives.
Live Your Love Loud in the midst of a fundraising drive to do something big for three-year anniversary of Buoniconti’s death.
“I was lucky enough to be married to man who had a huge heart, a generous spirit and a fire in his gut for helping others,” she writes at the Live Your Love Loud web site. “We made a good team. I cannot sit and do nothing. I cannot only think about myself and my pain, my loss, my brokenheartedness. I have to DO something.”
Amy Bushatz, a military journalist who spent a few intense wartime years of her own at Lewis-McChord with her Army officer husband, picked up on Buoniconti’s note for a column she wrote at Military.com. Bushatz, now in Kentucky, is still close to the military community in the South Sound. You can tell her heart’s here, too, when she writes about the families she met here.
“Watching Kryste work is inspiring and heart breaking all at the same time,” Bushatz wrote. “When she gives to the homeless, she doesn’t ask why they are there or question their stories. She gives because she has to, because Frank would’ve wanted her to, because she has been called to live her love loud and make sense of her grief through giving.”
I met Kryste in May 2013 for a story about her family and Live Your Love Loud. If I could go back, I’d try to reveal more about the wry humor Kryste shows as a parent to her kids and a friend to many.
She jokingly told me to remind people that she’s only human when I told her I wanted to follow up on Amy’s column. Kryste said she spent 20 minutes today cursing at her Christmas tree.
“Let’s keep it real,” she said.
For real, Kryste Buoniconti was a dynamo determined to turn her loss into something good for the world when I met her a year and a half ago. She still is.