Kirsten L. Christophe

Kirsten  L.  Christophe
World Trade Center

Romance in an Odd Place

Romance can be ignited in the oddest places, even under the intense pressure of a bar review course, which is how Kirsten Christophe met her husband, Charles. Already a recognized expert in the field of risk management–she advised law firms on how to avoid malpractice claims–Ms. Christophe had recently moved to New York from San Francisco when they met. She spent five years working for Aon. She left to join a competing company in Midtown Manhattan, but on Sept. 1, she returned to work at Aon, at the World Trade Center, where she had an office on the 104th floor.

During their six-year marriage, the Christophes were seldom apart, even taking business trips together. When their daughter, Gretchen Dagmar, was born last year, they brought her along, too.

Like most busy professionals, the couple, who lived in Maplewood, N.J., divided their child care responsibilities, and it was Ms. Christophe who would put the baby to bed. Gretchen, who turned 1 on Sept. 13, does not talk yet, but Mr. Christophe knows she misses her mother, especially in the evening. "She cries, 'Mommy, Mommy,' " he said. "What can I say?"

Profile published in THE NEW YORK TIMES on October 20, 2001.

Kirsten L. Christophe, 39, legal expert

Kirsten L. Thompson Christophe said goodbye to her husband, Charles, at 8:30 a.m. Sept. 11 in the PATH station below the World Trade Center. From there, she went up the South Tower to her office at Aon Corp., and he went to his office, about a block away.

At 9:05 a.m., Mrs. Christophe left a message for her husband, who had stepped out for an appointment. She wanted to alert him that the North Tower had been hit by a plane.

"I'm safe," the message said. "Don't worry." He did not hear from her again.

An accomplished attorney, dedicated volunteer and new mother, Mrs. Christophe, 39, of Maplewood was vice president of risk services for Aon Corp.

Born in Racine, Wis., Mrs. Christophe grew up in Chicago. She graduated from Michigan State University in 1983 and received her law degree from DePaul University in Chicago in 1986.

She met her husband in 1994 in a bar review course they took when studying for the New York State bar exam. They were married the following year. Last year, they had a daughter, Gretchen Daugmar Christophe.

"She was just like my angel," Mr. Christophe said of his wife. "She was an excellent mother. She was a brilliant spouse. Perfect."

Mr. Christophe marveled at how his wife was able to excel at everything she did.

"She was extremely, extremely organized," her husband said. "She was finding time for everything. She was able to manage everything."

She was active in the American Bar Association's tort and insurance practice section for 15 years. She was a nationally recognized expert in helping law firms comply with ethical and professional rules to prevent legal malpractice suits, and she published papers and books on the subject, he said.

She was also an active member of the New York Junior League for 10 years, he said.

"She was really, really socially open and tried to help everybody to do volunteer work," he said.

Besides Mrs. Christophe's husband and daughter, surviving are her parents, Bert and Bettye Lail Thompson of Peoria, Ill., and a sister and brother-in-law, Eric and Kaia Thompson of Chicago.

Relatives and friends are invited to attend a memorial service at 2 p.m. Sept. 30 at Wyoming Presbyterian Church, 432 Wyoming Ave., Millburn.

Contributions may be made to Kirsten Christophe Memorial Fund, c/o Wyoming Presbyterian Church, 432 Wyoming Ave., Millburn, N.J. 07041.

Profile by Rebecca Goldsmith published in THE STAR-LEDGER.

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