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An Inspiring Race Against Cancer
Special to the Jewish News
he love she felt for her
family was undeniable, yet
Geraldine Lester also had a
whole wide world she pas-
sionately embraced — and inspired.
A 20-year survivor of the breast can-
cer that ultimately claimed her life, she
"realized every day mattered and every
day counted," said son Matthew Lester.
Geri Lester didn't give up her usual
activities once cancer entered her life,
but she added on, joining the board of
Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer
Institute and providing leadership for
its Susan G. Komen Detroit Race for
the Cure, an annual fund-raiser for
breast cancer research.
"I nominated Geri and she won the
Karmanos Cancer - Institute's 2002
Heroes of Breast Cancer Compuware
Courage Award," said Karen Goldman,
vice president of Cancer Patient
Services for Karmanos. "Geri was a
beautiful person who battled her dis-
ease with dignity and courage. She has
been an inspiration to me, her care-
givers and other cancer patients."
"Despite the recent difficulties of her
disease, Geri remained active behind
the scenes — dispensing information,
humor and wisdom," said Maureen
Keenan Meldrum, Karmanos' director
of the Race for the Cure.
"Geri always saw the good in others,
the gifts in everyday living, and the
hope in every situation."
Mrs. Lester also was among the eight
original founders of Gilda's Club in
Royal Oak, a supportive place for can-
cer patients and their families since •
1998. Former Gilda's Club President
Randall Book cited her "wonderful
dedication and experience that has
helped so many others through difficult
Gilda's Club co-founder Jackie
Grekin, recalling Mrs. Lester's devotion
to the cause, said the entire Lester fami-
ly took part in the club's Family Walk
and Block Party each fall. "Her hus-
band Mel often drove the pace car
while Geri was surrounded by her
On May 8, 2003, Geraldine Lester,
65, of Franklin died peacefully in the
arms of her daughters, Jennifer Lester
and Stefany Freeman, "who stood
watch on her around the clock," said
son Matthew. A day later, more than
1,000 people whom their mother had
touched shared the family's loss at her
Despite recurrences of metastasized
breast cancer, Mrs. Lester's positive out-
look, along with her captivating smile,
brought her admiration and many
friends. "Nothing bothered Geri," said
friend Barbara Robinson. "She was
upbeat, smart, fun and talented."
Michael Radner (Gilda's brother and
club board member) said, "Geri
inspired others to do great things. She
was one of the key people to make
things happen with Gilda's Club."
But Mrs. Lester's activism also
extended to her family.
An Active Life
Although the former Geraldine
Kulish had gone to Central High
School in Detroit with her future hus-
band, Dr. Melvin Lester, the couple
began dating while on staff at Camp
Tanuga near Traverse City.
"Mel and Geri made an incredible
team," said Matthew of his parents.
"They shared so many common inter-
ests — art, music, city of Detroit,
Sailors and world travelers, she said
"yes" to living in Turkey for 2 1 /2 years
when he was in the Air Force — even
with their small children — because she
"was truly a free spirit" and didn't want
to miss an experience, Dr. Lester said.
In February, they completed a trip to
the Far East — Hong Kong, Vietnam,
Malaysia, Singapore, Bangkok and
Cambodia. "She was climbing through
caves in Vietnam just three months ago."
Mrs. Lester was also an avid reader,
gardener and art collector. "Everything
interested her," he said.
The Lesters were members of Temple
Kol Ami and were honored as 1997
"Michiganians of the Year" by the
She was a life member of Hadassah,
ORT and Women of Maimonides
Medical Society; served on the board of
the Jewish Community Council of
Metropolitan Detroit and was a solicitor
for the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan
Detroit's Annual Campaign.
"When the four of us were growing
up, Mom seemed to be everywhere we
were, even when we couldn't see her,"
said son Kenneth Lester. "She volun-
teered in my school library. At Sunday
school, she founded a music program."
Looking at what Mrs. Lester was able
to accomplish in her 65 years, Rabbi
Norman Roman of Kol Ami quoted
from Pirkei Avot (Ethics of Our
Fathers) at the funeral: "It is not yours
to complete the task, but you must not
refrain from participating."
He said, "Geri knew those words and
knew that value."
Geraldine Lester is survived by her
husband of 42 years, Dr. Melvin Lester;
daughters and son-in-law, Stefan), and
Gary Freeman of Bloomfield Hills,
Jennifer Lester and partner, Karen Hain
of Washington; sons and daughters-in-
law, Kenneth and Pam Lester of
Missouri, Matthew and Nicole Lester of
Birmingham; grandchildren, Jacob,
Spencer and Bradley Freeman, Nicole,
Abby, Cory and Hannah Lester, Elliah
Lester; brother and sister-in-law, Harold
and Nancy Kulish of Bloomfield Hills
and sister-in-law and brother-in-law,
Carol and Eugene Morrison.
Interment was at Clover Hill Park
Cemetery. Contributions may be made
to the Geraldine Lester Foundation at
Gilda's Club, 3517 Rochester Road,
Royal Oak, MI 48073. Arrangements
by Ira Kaufman Chapel. El
LILLIAN ALTMAN, 90, of West
Bloomfield, died May 7, 2003.
She is survived by her daughters
and sons-in-law, Roz and Larry
Rogers, Marilynn and Jerry Brenner
of New York; grandchildren, Shari
Rogers and David Hereford, Julie
Rogers, Neal Rogers, Paul and Jill
Brenner, Jeffrey and Laura Brenner,
Dr. Joel and Dr. Michelle Brenner;
great-grandchildren, Derek and
Crista Brenner, Max and Stephen
Brenner; sisters, Kitty Alexander of
Florida and Elaine Shaft of Ohio.
She was the beloved wife of the late
Leo Altman; loving great-grand-
mother of the late Jessica Brenner;
dear sister of the late Anne Chait
and the late Irving Rosenthal.
Interment at Adat Shalom
Memorial Park. Arrangements by
Ira Kaufman Chapel.
SADIE BETH BENNETT, 88, of
West Bloomfield, died March 18.
She was a graduate of Wayne State
University and worked as a secretary
at Michigan Scrap Iron of Detroit.
After her marriage, she and her hus-
band made their home in Ann
Arbor and operated a farm, special-
izing in berries, raising peacocks
and specialty fowl.
Mrs. Bennett also had worked for
Argus Cameras and as an executive
secretary in the history department
at the University of Michigan. She
was an avid traveler.
It was Mrs. Bennett's wish that
her remains be donated to the
University of Michigan School of
She is survived by her beloved sis-
ter, Ruth Widrich; devoted nephews
and nieces, Gerald and Evelyn
Kepes, Stewart and Lee Kepes. She
was the beloved wife of the late
Robert Bennett; loving sister of the
late Celia Kepes (Joseph), the late
Augusta Meyers (Dr. Sol G.), the
late Meyer Klein and the late Alex
Memorial services will be held
11:30 a.m. Friday, May 23, at
Temple Israel. Contributions may
be made to a charity of one's
MORRIS FREED, 81, of
Bloomfield Hills, died May 7, 2003.
He is survived by his son, Dr.
Terry Freed of Jerome, Idaho;
daughter, Ellen Freed of Bloomfield
Hills; sisters, Bertha Rochlen of
Walled Lake, Frances Milgrom of
OBITUARIES on page 142