Before she was an American working in Afghanistan to improve the lives of women in the war-torn country, Lexie Kamerman was a standout water polo player whose enthusiasm and team spirit inspired those around her.
The 27-year-old Chicago native died Friday in a Taliban attack on a restaurant in the capital city of Kabul, which killed 21 people and injured others.
As those who knew her grappled with the news, they remembered Kamerman for her fun-loving demeanor and positive attitude.
Like her mother and aunts before her, Kamerman attended the Latin School of Chicago. There, she became a star water polo player, practicing with the varsity team as an eighth-grader.
“She was an intense, intense athlete,” said Mary O’Malley, a friend and fellow player who was four years ahead of Kamerman at school. “She elevated the level of play for everyone in the pool. She was very focused on teamwork.”
Even as a child, Kamerman was a “joy” to coach, said Laura Coffman, a family friend who coached Kamerman in water polo during her years at Latin.
“One of the things that I can always remember about her as a child was she just always was happy,” Coffman said. “We might have gotten our butt kicked in a game, but she was the one after every practice and every game, she'd say, ‘Thanks, coach, that was fun.’ She didn't take it super seriously. It wasn't a matter of life and death, it was just, ‘This is fun.’”
Kamerman was a three-time Illinois All-Conference selection and helped the Latin team to top 20 rankings in Illinois from 2001 through 2004. As a senior, she earned All-State and Most Valuable Player honors in leading Latin to second place in the state sectional tournament.
Kamerman also impressed outside the pool. Chinh K. Nguyen, who was Kamerman’s science teacher at Latin, said that during her senior year, Kamerman spent about 15 hours a week teaching arts to kindergarteners and helping with gym activities of first- and second-graders.
“She was shy in ninth grade and became more confident over the years I knew her at Latin and became a thoughtful, kind and spunky go-getter by the time she graduated,” Nguyen said.
Kamerman graduated from Latin in 2004 and went off to Knox College in Galesburg, where she continued to perform, both in the pool and in the classroom. She graduated in 2008 with a double major in environmental studies and in anthropology and sociology.
After graduation, she worked as director of membership services for the Collegiate Water Polo Association. She left in 2010 to earn her master’s degree in higher education at the University of Arizona.
Kamerman moved to Afghanistan less than a year ago and worked there as a student development specialist at the American University of Afghanistan.
“She was just a global citizen and recognized that she's just one small part of a great big world and she wanted to help worldwide,” Coffman said.