Beth Ryder-Kenna cared as much about fashion as she did about feminism.

She loved to put together the perfect outfit – complete with a stylish pair of earrings, bold lipstick and killer shoes – and host a dinner party or volunteer for a political candidate or cause.

She lived with intention and purpose and sought to make a difference in the world. And she did, right to the end, according to family and friends.

Ryder-Kenna died Monday after a fight with duodenal (small intestine) cancer. She was 31.

Loved ones laughed and cried last week sharing stories of a witty and clever woman who loved to eat candy, binge-watch “Gossip Girl,” and inspire young women to rise above adversity and pursue their dreams.

“There just aren’t a lot of people like Beth,” said her mother, Bonney Ryder, of Decatur, Alabama. “You’re lucky if you meet three or four people like her in your life. I got to be in her life for 31 years. It’s unnatural for a mother to bury her child. The loss is huge to me, but not just for me. Her whole being was about making a difference in the world.”

Ryder-Kenna made her mark at Portland High School as co-founder of Youthink, a youth-driven organization that empowers young people to speak and act on issues affecting their lives and others. She helped lead the group’s first statewide youth philanthropy conference. As a student, she was a leader on the civil rights team and served on the youth advisory council to the Portland City Council. She graduated in 2004.

It’s where she met her good friend Ainsley Wallace of Portland. Ryder-Kenna was on the committee that hired Wallace as director of Youthink. They remained great friends through the years. She said they were pen pals and had a two-person book club.

“I took her to college and went to her graduation. She spent Christmases at our house,” Wallace said. “Beth was this wonderful combination of being precocious and idealistic and strongly opinionated, but also a real learner. She really made the world a better place, and a more joyful, fun place.”

According to her obituary, which was published in The Boston Globe on Friday, Ryder-Kenna was a tireless advocate for women’s rights and social justice causes. She fought against racism, bigotry, homophobia and misogyny. She volunteered for SARSSM, Sexual Assault Response Services of Southern Maine.

“Beth was just committed to social justice. It’s just who she was,” her mother said.

Ryder-Kenna graduated from Wellesley College in Massachusetts in 2008. Most recently, she worked at City Year in Boston, an organization dedicated to helping students reach their highest potential.

Another highlight of her life was being a “big sister” through the Big Sister Association of Greater Boston. Friends say she loved her “little sister.”

Her dear friend Emily Randall of Bremerton, Washington, spoke with awe and admiration of her pursuit for fairness and justice in the world.

Randall said she was an amazing friend, who was always there to lift her up and give advice on the perfect shade of lipstick for her.

“Her closet is a glimpse into the bold vibrancy which she lived and her immense attention to detail,” Randall said. “She was the person I went to when I needed a pep talk or to be chastised. She was my realest, truest friend.”

A couple of weeks before her 30th birthday, Ryder-Kenna was diagnosed with duodenal cancer. Doctors said her cancer was incurable and gave her a year and a half to live.

“We went to the Dominican Republic a couple of weeks after she was diagnosed,” Randall said. “She wanted to keep living as boldly as she had before. We spent her 30th birthday drinking pina coladas, reading trashy novels and swimming in the ocean. She was sick, but we enjoyed it as much as we could. We were together.”

Ryder-Kenna endured 26 rounds of chemotherapy, and had radiation and immunotherapy treatments. She dressed to the nines for her appointments. Throughout her illness, she worked full time and spent time with friends and her “little sister.”

“She came to visit me in May,” Randall said. “We drove to Vancouver because she wanted to walk on the Capilano Suspension Bridge. We took as many ridiculous selfies as we could.”

A You Caring page was created to help defray some of her medical costs. Within 24 hours, close to $20,000 was raised. As of Saturday, $29,163 was raised.

A celebration of her life was held Friday in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts. Before she died, she requested with a laugh that her funeral service “be private with a bouncer.”

Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at:

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