Cheslie Kryst’s Mom Shares Precious Memories at Her Public Memorial
Cheslie Kryst’s life was celebrated on Friday at a public memorial in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Throughout the memorial, held at Elevation Blakeney, Cheslie was remembered for her fight for social justice, her work with Dress for Success, and her infectious smile.
A montage of Cheslie during her reign as Miss USA was shown along with other memorable moments in her life, like when she saw her face in a magazine and her sweet interactions with youth.
The memorial also played one of “Extra’s” recent tributes to Cheslie. In the clip, Cheslie is seen interviewing several big names, like Taylor Swift, Oprah Winfrey, and Tom Hanks.
Cheslie’s friend and Miss America 2019 Nia Franklin performed an emotional rendition of “In the Morning When I Rise.”
Near the end of the memorial, Cheslie’s mother April Simpkins took the stage, thanking everyone for attending the service. Calling her daughter “spiritual,” she noted that Cheslie went to Elevation Blakeney when she was in college and as an adult.
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For the memorial, Simpkins wore a pink suit since it made her feel “close” to Cheslie, who had helped her pick it out.
She told the audience, “Your prayers have carried us… And please continue to pray for us.”
In addition to focusing on Cheslie’s achievements during her speech, April said she wanted to reflect on memories of Cheslie that their family loved.
April read a letter from her son Asa, Cheslie’s younger brother, who discussed their love for Batman. He wrote, “She was so unapologetically herself.”
April spoke about the similarities between her husband David and Cheslie, who met him when she was 13. Along with discussing their pro bono cases, she said, “They were both hardcore introverts.”
She thanked David for bringing her baby home after her tragic death. She also revealed that Cheslie had a sweet tooth and could often be found in a bakery.
Calling Cheslie the family’s cheerleader, her mother said she "showed up" to everything, despite her busy schedule.
She recounted a story about Cheslie being the family’s spokesperson, when she was “negotiating” her siblings’ punishment after one of them accidentally put a dent in the wall at their home.
Of Cheslie’s genuine, caring and "humble" nature, April stressed, “She didn’t just talk about things that needed to change… she put actions to words.”
Simpkins opened up about her second-to-last trip with Cheslie, revealing, “We roomed with each other and ended each day with girl talks and giggles.”
April recalled their final trip to Israel for the Miss Universe pageant. Thought they didn’t room together, they would FaceTime each day to discuss the schedule. She shared, “We traveled together, we laughed together, and we cried together.”
Holding back tears, Simpkins said, “She is forever my baby girl. I’m going to miss all of her.”
As for what she’ll miss most about her “best friend,” Simpkins revealed, “Her pure, giving heart.”
Simpkins ended her speech by stressing the importance of taking care of one’s mental health, saving the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number, and becoming an ally in one’s community.
In honor of Cheslie, Wake Forest University announced a scholarship in her name, the Cheslie Kryst Diversity & Social Justice Law Scholarship. She graduated from the university with a law degree in 2017.
The Dean’s List also announced a scholarship in her honor.
The memorial concluded with a slideshow of photos of Cheslie and a prayer.
If you or anyone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.