Crystal Bene Starnes, 34, a young life cut short by multiple sclerosis

Posted: April 12, 2013

CRYSTAL Bene Starnes had everything going for her. She was pretty, intelligent, popular and talented. But in her junior year in college, Crystal began to feel the early stages of multiple sclerosis.

Over the next dozen years, the crippling disease gradually robbed her of her ability to walk and speak.

The last words she was able to utter, two years ago, were, "God is."

She died April 4 at age 34.

"She had a lovely personality," said her father, James Starnes. "She was outgoing and bubbly with a beautiful smile."

The disease would attack her, then she would recover, only to be attacked again, he said. The family finally had to go to her school, California University of Pennsylvania, and bring her home.

She spent 10 years at Inglis House and her final two years at AristaCare at Meadow Springs, in Plymouth Meeting.

James and Crystal's mother, Catherine, and her brother James II went there last Wednesday with Crystal's daughter, Qasima, 13, to say a last goodbye.

But, during her brief time on Earth, Crystal brought light and joy to many people.

Her aunt, Marilyn Kai Jewett, owner of Progressive Images Marketing/Communications, recalled her only neice as "always full of life."

She remembered her in her white baby shoes, and how, when Marilyn came to their home, Crystal would call out, "Where's Aunt Marilyn?"

"And I would hear her little footsteps running up the stairs. As she grew into womanhood, we had great conversations about all types of subjects.

"She was very inquisitive, and when I would ask her why she was asking me a certain question, she would put her hands on her hips and reply, 'Because I want to know!'

"I will always remember the toddler in white baby shoes calling out for me, and she will always have a special place in my heart."

Crystal was born in Philadelphia. She was educated at the Lotus Academy and graduated from Parkway High School.

"She was born a star," her family said. She studied dance for a time at South Philadelphia Dance Academy.

Crystal worked briefly for Wendy's, then decided to further her education and went to college. During her breaks from school, she worked for Wistar Institute as a security guard to earn money for college. Her father worked for Wistar for 27 years as a driver before he retired.

Her father said that Crystal did not have a particular career in mind, but took general courses. "She was good at almost everything," he said.

Crystal was a member of Mount Carmel Baptist Church.

Besides her parents, daughter and brother, she is survived by her grandfather, Mack Hunter, of Georgia.

Services: 11 a.m. Friday at Mount Carmel Baptist Church, 5732 Race St.

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