(Editor’s note: The Cincinnati Enquirer published the following article on Oct. 1, 2010, a few days after Lissa’s death.)
By Janice Morse, Cincinnati Enquirer
Fairfield Township – From the time she was small, Melissa “Lissa” Kramer always asked profound questions, her dad says, starting with, “Because why?”
Now, many other people are asking that sort of question about the death this week of the University of Cincinnati student and Covington native who authored a book, “The Inclines of Cincinnati,” which explores the city’s historic hillside transportation systems. She was 41.
An initial investigation indicates Ms. Kramer’s husband, Dale, 57, fatally shot her and then himself in an apparent murder-suicide. Police found the pair dead in their home Monday after a relative expressed concern about an undisclosed marital problem.
There was no official ruling on the case as of Thursday.
Ms. Kramer’s father, Gerald McNabb – who also was a friend of his daughter’s husband for more than two decades – says he prayed their souls would be at peace.
He fondly, vividly recounts his daughter posing a stunningly probing question when she was just 2: “Here she is with springy blond curls and these beautiful blue eyes, she looked up at me and said, ‘Because why?’”
“She was looking for understanding or resolution as to why things are the way they are,” her dad says. “That’s really all of mankind’s question . . . When she lost her life, God answered her question – all those profound questions.”
McNabb said he plans to deliver a eulogy with the theme, “Because why?” at his daughter’s funeral, set for 10 a.m. Saturday at the Webster Funeral Home, 3080 Homeward Way, Fairfield. Visitation is 5 to 8 p.m. today. McNabb wants his daughter to be remembered for her compassion, determination and spunk. Since age 1, she battled juvenile rheumatoid arthritis.
He fell in love with her before ever laying eyes on her.
He explains: One night, as he lay by his pregnant wife’s side in their Erlanger apartment, his unborn daughter awoke him. “She kicked me between my spine and my left kidney . . . I fell in love with her at that moment,” he said Thursday. “I can remember that moment crystal-clear.”
The former Melissa McNabb was born a few months later, on June 19, 1969. She spent her early years in Covington. The family moved to Hamilton, following her dad’s job as an electrician, then to Fairfield, where she graduated from high school.
The feisty spirit she exhibited in the womb persisted throughout her life.
She rarely let her arthritis get her down, although it forced her into a wheelchair and disrupted her architecture studies at UC when she was in her 20s. She later returned to her studies there in journalism.
“Every time she’d get beaten down, she’d spring back,” her dad said. “I mean, can’t you just love that?”
She endured multiple surgeries and suffered extreme pain in her hands. In spite of that, she used colored pens and markers to produce detailed renderings of historic architecture. Her dad plans to display some of her artwork at the funeral home.
“It would typically take her 40 hours to do one of these,” he said.
Her mother, the former Peggy Whaley, died of stomach cancer in 2002 at age 56.
McNabb says his daughter and wife were both exuberant women who cared deeply about others.
His daughter did volunteer work helping senior citizens. She conducted tours of historic homes with the Cincinnati Preservation Association in recent years.
According to the University of Cincinnati, Ms. Kramer was close to finishing its journalism program, although she hadn’t applied for a degree.
UC journalism graduate Taylor Dungjen, 22, who now lives in northern Ohio, said fellow students appreciated the mature perspective Ms. Kramer provided.
“She was very unassuming and nonjudgmental,“ Dungjen said, “always very warm and very kind, always very interested in other people.”
“You could always count on Lissa to be one of the people you could go to, whether it was about school or more personal things.”
She was a member of the First Baptist Church of Ross.
Besides her father, Ms. Kramer leaves two children, Zachary Kramer, 19, and Savannah Webster, 14, who lives with grandparents in Northern Kentucky; a sister, Kristina Swank; a brother, Michael McNabb; her grandfather, Forest McNabb; and her grandmother, Elydia Smallwood, both in Northern Kentucky.