NORTH COVENTRY - Last Tuesday, Christina Todd volunteered to go to work with her father, Renny, and her brother, Michael, to help them with a project.
It was a very hectic day, and it was 2 p.m. before they finally broke for lunch. Usually, Renny and Michael Todd would just grab a quick bite to go before heading back to work.
"Something told me to go to a very nice restaurant," Renny said. "We sat down for a leisurely lunch. We discussed what was going on in everybody's lives. Back in the car, we listened to music and were laughing and joking.
"We had a family dinner that night with all of us (including Christina's mother, Donna, and sister, Melissa) together. It was a very special day with Chrissy the day before she died."
Christina Todd, 26, one of the best female basketball players the Pottstown area has produced, died from injuries suffered in an automobile accident Oct. 29 on Route 100.
Thursday evening, in a house overflowing with loving friends and family members, Donna, Renny, Melissa and Michael gathered in the basement to talk about the too-short life of a special daughter and sister.
As talented as Christina was on a basketball court - and she was good enough to play one season professionally in Switzerland - her family remembered her more for her kindness, compassion, sense of humor and love of children.
"Out of all the things I'm most proud of about my kids, it's the beautiful young men and women they have grown to be," Donna said. "I have three great kids. That means more to me than anything."
All three children - 6-foot-1 Christina, 6-foot Melissa and 6-3 Michael - were exceptionally talented athletes. All three surpassed 1,000 points during their high school basketball careers.
"Chrissy was our first born," Renny said. "She led the way for Melissa and Michael to follow - in attitude and the way they carry themselves. They were so tight. They might fight amongst themselves. But don't let anyone else from outside try to get in between."
After attending Owen J. Roberts High School in ninth and 10th grades, Christina transferred to St. Pius X for her junior and senior years of high school. Despite missing the latter part of her senior season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in her knee, Christina scored 1,278 points in her high school career.
She earned a scholarship to play Division I basketball at George Mason University. She overcame a second knee operation to average 8.6 points and 4.3 rebounds with 165 assists, 80 steals and 37 blocked shots for her college basketball career.
Two years ago, she spent four months playing professional basketball for Star Gordola in the Swiss League.
"When I think of Christina, her ever-present smile and beauty come to mind," said Joe Masleh, the current St. Pius and former Pottstown girls basketball coach. "It is a tragic loss for her family and the Pottstown basketball community.
"As a player, I coached against her for four years and had the pleasure of coaching her in the PAL national basketball tournament. She was very instrumental in Pottstown winning the PAL national championship in 1995. She was a fierce competitor with a soft hook shot and a player you'd want on the foul line in crunch time. She was one of the better players ever to come out of the Pottstown area."
Christina was very supportive of her younger siblings in all of their endeavors.
"She was my second mother," Michael said. "She always encouraged me. One thing sticks out in my mind. In my senior year, I had a really bad game in the playoffs. She wrote me a card and gave it to me right before my next game. That card moved me so much emotionally. She knew how to get me to bounce back through encouragement. The next game was one of my best games."
"She said not to let anybody tell you that you can't do something if that's what you want to do," Melissa said.
Christina and Melissa spent two years coaching young girls in the CYO basketball program at St. Aloyisius in Pottstown, finishing first in the league one year and second the other year. The young aspiring players were well aware of who was coaching them.
"We already had the plus of them adoring both of us," Melissa said. "They always worked so hard for us to improve upon their skills."
That had as much to do with the kind of people they were as their long basketball resumes. Rayne Reber played for the Todds at St. Al's as an eighth-grader two years ago and then helped lead St. Pius to the state basketball tournament last year as a freshman.
"I absolutely loved playing for Chrissy," Reber said. "Not only did I view her as a coach, she was my friend, too. She made practices fun. There was not one person on the team who didn't love her as a friend and coach. When I was in CYO, she went overseas to play professional basketball. She was a huge role model for me."
Wednesday night, when Reber heard that Christina had died, she was in shock, not wanting to believe what had happened. Then she broke down and cried. When an announcement was made at school Thursday, everybody who knew her cried.
During her life, Christina loved to make people laugh. Michael remembered her as their house comedian, doing voices and facial expressions. Melissa said she was always willing to humble herself to make others laugh.
Her father recalled that she was a terrific singer, doing an uncanny karaoke impersonation of Cher using a curling iron. She also organized all the family functions.
In college, she volunteered at soup kitchens and the peer ministry.
After working for a year as a compliance director at Northwestern Mutual, she went back to school at West Chester University to get a second degree in Spanish education to go with her communication degree from George Mason. She eventually wanted to teach and coach in high school.
"Everything she did, she did well," Michael said. "She was very goal-oriented."
"She was beautiful inside and out," her mother said. "She made an impact on your life. She was so loved by all of us."
Renny said his daughter died happy, having recently met a young man she was excited about spending time with in the future.
"She was once my little girl," her father said. "She grew into an adult. But she always stayed close with me in heart and spirit. Even as an adult, she was still my little girl."