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Paying a Debt of Gratitude

March 18, 1993|BEVERLY BEYETTE

Santa Monican Joyce Eisenberg Keefer thinks of her $1.8-million gift to establish a comprehensive breast cancer center at St. John's Hospital and Health Center as partial repayment on a debt of gratitude.

In 1976, her husband, Ben Eisenberg, was found to have melanoma and was referred to John Wayne Cancer Institute, then at UCLA, now at St. John's.

"When you're told you have cancer, you're the loneliest person in the whole world," she recalls. "From the start, these people were like one great big family."

Eisenberg beat the cancer for 10 years. "Which is 10 years more than most people last with melanoma," says Keefer. Among his doctors was Armando E. Giuliano, who will be director of the Joyce Eisenberg Keefer Breast Center.

With the latest gift, the Eisenberg Foundation has presented almost $3 million to the institute. "I'm happy to be able to give," she says, "and I'm happy that I've never had to receive."

Ben Eisenberg, a Polish immigrant, built a coat and suit business in Los Angeles and invested in real estate. His widow, now married to artist/illustrator Mel Keefer, supports numerous philanthropies.

The breast center, to open May 1, will offer what Giuliano calls "one-stop" care in a non-institutional environment.

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