Remembering Lorna Rosenstein

Remembering Lorna Rosenstein, Co-Founder of Gilda's Club Greater Toronto

Gilda’s Club Greater Toronto is mourning the loss of our great friend and Co-Founder Lorna Rosenstein who passed away in her Toronto home in the care of loved ones on April 21, 2020.

Lorna was a compassionate and visionary leader. She shattered barriers and overcame obstacles, both personally and professionally, ascending ultimately to become President of Lotus Technologies, while dealing with degenerative vision loss and cancer. She was a feminist in a male dominated industry, who spoke as a “Woman of Influence” across Canada and was featured in both Maclean's and Lifestyle Magazines. Despite her busy career, Lorna lived the concept of “tzedakah” with a generosity of spirit and commitment to community that led her to co-found Gilda’s Club Greater Toronto.
“All she wanted to know was how she could help. And then with her engaging nature, her warmth, her humour and her smarts she became a driving force in getting our red doors open,” remembers friend and Co-Founder Linda Rechtsman.

“Lorna was a presence. She had visited Gilda’s Club in New York. She knew what we were about and was up for the challenge. We relied on her expertise and skill with people to realize our collective goals. She was passionate and determined. We couldn’t have opened our doors without Lorna."

Lorna was diagnosed with cervical cancer in 1980, experiencing first-hand, the uncertainty and grief that accompanies such a diagnosis. Even so, Lorna admitted “I denied my own need for the support of people and I denied them the opportunity to support me.” Perhaps this is what ultimately drew her to create a cancer support community.

“She truly believed in the mission of Gilda’s Club, of members helping members through their cancer experience," recalls Co-Founder Ricki Harris. “This was how Lorna functioned in her business and personal life. She believed that problems were solved and successes were achieved through a team effort...that you can’t be successful alone.”

Lorna’s commitment to creating an environment where people could succeed extended to Gilda’s Club through her mentorship and support of staff. "Though her sight was failing her, her vision was strong,” recalls Maryann Kerr, the first Executive Director of Gilda’s Club Greater Toronto.

“Lorna walked me through the Old Firehall building in November 1999 in Toronto and shared the Board’s dream for Gilda’s Club Greater Toronto. The building was empty, cold, dark, and smelled REALLY bad. Somehow, she painted a picture of a warm, welcoming community and I was sold. Her passion, enthusiasm, and certainty that this would happen, lit a spark inside me and many others.”

Lorna loved conducting tours of Gilda's Club, especially for new members who could benefit from cancer support services. Of Gilda’s Club, Lorna proudly said, “I helped create this and for every story I hear, I smile and think to myself, I made a difference.” There were lots of people who helped make Gilda’s Club happen, but there was no one like Lorna and she touched many lives in the process.

To honour Lorna's passion and commitment to Gilda's Club Greater Toronto, Co-Founders Linda Rechtsman, Ricki Harris and Helen Burstyn have created the Lorna Rosenstein Legacy Fund. The gifts raised through this fund will be used to ensure that Lorna’s vision to create a warm, welcoming community of emotional, social, and practical support will endure and make a difference in the lives of those impacted by cancer. While a detailed announcement of the Fund will be communicated at a later date, any donation made in memory of Lorna will be recognized through the Lorna Rosenstein Legacy Fund.

Lorna will be dearly missed.