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1996-12-28: Family's friends remember: 'She was like a little doll'
Family's friends remember: 'She was like a little doll'
Camera Staff Writer
December 28, 1996

Monday night, JonBenet Ramsey gave Santa a bottle of stardust at her family's annual Christmas party.

"She gave it to me for my beard, and that just shows that she was thinking about giving and not just getting," said Bill McReynolds, who played Santa at the Ramsey family's Christmas celebration the past three years. "It was a particularly buoyant party, and about 50 people were there. They had lots of decorations, and that was their style. They just loved Christmas."

Less than 24 hours after the holiday ended, the 6-year-old aspiring beauty queen was dead, found strangled in the family's basement.

"She had an angel's spirit, which is unusual not only among adults, but children, and I'm just devastated that she's gone," McReynolds said.

Other family friends and co-workers had similar reactions to JonBenet's death. On Friday, they recalled her as a mature, generous, sweet young girl who loved singing and dancing. JonBenet - the daughter of a former Miss West Virginia and the president of Access Graphics, a Boulder-based computer distribution company - won the 1995 Little Miss Colorado pageant and America's Tiny Little Miss in 1996, family friends said.

"This child was like a little doll," said Dee Dee Nelson-Schneider, a family friend who worked with Patsy Ramsey, JonBenet's mother, as a volunteer at Flatirons Elementary School. "She just had stage presence, and Patsy coaching her a lot, and they interacted beautifully. Patsy had all these pet names for her, like Sugar. It was just a special relationship."

But the family has encountered tragedy before, friends said. Patsy battled ovarian cancer, Nelson-Schneider noted. "There was one time when she walked into school and had on a wig because she lost all of her hair to chemotherapy," she said. "I came back about two hours later and she had taken her wig off, and she was practically bald, and she was still working. She had cancer, and yet she was still at the school working. That's just how dedicated she was."

In another incident about five years ago, John Ramsey's daughter from his first marriage died in a car accident. Ramsey also has another college-age daughter and a son from that marriage, friends said.

"Certainly, I think people are shocked whether they knew John or not," said Laurie Wagner, vice president for worldwide development at Access Graphics. The company, a subsidiary of Lockheed Martin in Bethesda, Md., recently celebrated its first $1 billion in revenues.

"People are very concerned for the family but continue to do what they need to do with their job," Wagner said. JonBenet occasionally would arrive at the office and take her father out to lunch with her family, Wagner said.

"She was a charming little girl," Wagner said. "I think when something like this happens, it always makes people contemplate about their own situation; that's a natural reaction. But there doesn't seem to be any need for alarm."

Friends, however, said the incident frightened them.

"It's really scary, because you don't think something like this can happen here," said a family friend who declined to give his name. "They just came by Christmas night ... to drop off a present, and they seemed fine. Patsy was just bubbly, full of life, and she was excited about going to Michigan the next day."

Another close family friend didn't notice anything unusual with the family Monday night.

"I was at the party, and everybody was just so happy," he said. "JonBenet was taking Santa around, and she was with her brother (10-year-old Burke) for a while. The two of them just got along wonderfully."

Indeed, JonBenet doted on her older brother, McReynolds said.

"Last year, she wanted to make sure I spent enough time with him," McReynolds said. "And she always wanted to make sure everyone was having a good time, which is why I was so surprised that she was so young ... I'll really miss her angel spirit."

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