Robert and Myra Kraft at the opening of a playground for a Boys and Girls Club in Waltham, Mass. in October 2010. Myra Kraft died today at the age of 68. (AP)

Robert and Myra Kraft at the opening of a playground for a Boys and Girls Club in Waltham, Mass. in October 2010. Myra Kraft died today at the age of 68. (AP)

Years ago, at a big dinner held to raise money for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Boston, I found myself seated next to New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft.

After I’d identified myself in terms of my work, Mr. Kraft smiled and said, “Well, they’ve put you at the wrong place at the table.” He got up and changed seats with me, so that I’d be sitting next to his wife, Myra. “She’s the public radio fan,” he said.

What I remember about that evening is that Myra Kraft had a contagious smile and a fine sense of humor….and that the Boston Boys and Girls Clubs were a lot better off at the end of the evening than they’d been before it began.

Myra Kraft, who had suffered from cancer and died early this morning at the age of 68, was a thoughtful, energetic, compassionate and generous benefactor of more organizations and causes than there is room here to list. It’s probably not hard for extremely wealthy people to give away a lot of money, but Mrs. Kraft built such a reputation as a hands-on patron of people and causes in which she took a personal interest that the New York Times credited her with “modeling a new form of engaged giving that is transforming the relationship between philanthropist and philanthropy.”

Inevitably, Mrs. Kraft was best-known as the wife of the man who owns the New England Patriots. She was, not surprisingly, a fan of the team and a friend to many of the players, but legend has it that she became involved in the business of the Patriots only once. In the 1996 NFL Draft, the Pats picked Christian Peter, who’d played his college football at Nebraska, where he’d distinguished himself as a thug with a particular propensity for violence against women. Allegedly at Myra Kraft’s insistence, the Pats backed off their choice and relinquished their rights to Peter a week after they’d chosen him. 15 years after the fact, it still seems a fitting and relevant story to tell in the process of celebrating the life and character and commitment of Myra Kraft.