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Sandy Cohen, 61; Key Supporter of Cancer Institute

June 23, 2002|From a Times Staff Writer

Sandy Cohen, a co-founder and active participant in the John Wayne Cancer Institute Auxiliary at St. John's Health Center, died Friday of ovarian cancer at the Santa Monica hospital. She was 61.

A long-term survivor of breast cancer, Cohen was diagnosed with ovarian cancer last year.

"Sandy was a woman of great strength and courage who did so much for cancer patients at the John Wayne Cancer Institute," said Dr. Armando Giuliano, chief of surgical oncology at the institute and director of its Joyce Eisenberg Keefer Breast Center. "She had such a great, uplifting spirit."

Cohen was diagnosed with breast cancer in July 1982, and underwent a mastectomy and reconstruction at the institute when it was based at UCLA.

Her cancer in remission, she wanted to give something back to women facing the same health crisis.

Along with Noreen Nelson, another breast cancer survivor, Cohen gathered a number of friends and formed the auxiliary, which became the institute's fund-raising and volunteer arm. It has nearly 1,000 members and has generated more than $10 million for the institute.

The auxiliary raises money in a variety of ways, most notably its annual Odyssey Ball, a gala black tie dinner-dance and auction that this year netted more than $1 million.

Cohen had served as president of the auxiliary and remained an active member of the board of trustees.

But her activism went beyond fund-raising and committee work. She volunteered regularly at the Keefer Center, counseling women facing breast surgery.

Born in St. Louis, Cohen later moved to Los Angeles, where she met her husband, Irving A. Cohen, an insurance executive. They were married in 1963. He survives her, as do her daughters, Teddi Gilderman and Amy Minda Cohen; and two grandchildren, Ryan and Hope Gilderman.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests that donations be made in Cohen's honor to the John Wayne Cancer Institute Auxiliary, 2200 Santa Monica Blvd., Suite 131, Santa Monica, CA 90404.

Services are scheduled for 3 p.m. Monday at Hillside Memorial Park in Culver City.

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