Remembering the “feeling of fear and isolation” that haunted her as a child in Rochester during her own mother’s battle with breast cancer, Anna Gottlieb became a fan and donor of the cancer support organization Gilda’s Club from its earliest days in New York. Visiting the original facility, named for the late “Saturday Night Live” comedian Gilda Radner, she “really fell in love” and decided to open a Seattle chapter.
“Being stupid and stubborn I thought: ‘I can do this,’” she laughs.
“I was fairly new to Seattle; I wasn’t the person who could write a $25,000 check,” she says. “It was a miserable, painful four years” of letter writing and phone calls.
A five-year corporate sponsorship from Sears with support from the oncology community really got things going. Now she’s been running the organization, with its own Capitol Hill building, for 10 years.
Anna and her husband, Charlie Schmidt — they met on a kibbutz in Israel — had moved to Seattle from the other Washington, where she worked for AIPAC, the Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigations and for then-Senator Joe Biden. Having attended grad school in Oregon, she was pining for the Northwest. Charlie, who works for Social Security, managed to get a transfer and they moved out here with their daughter, Talia (son Danny was born here).
What Anna loves about Gilda’s Club is that they serve and support everyone. She’s always fighting the misperception that it’s a women’s organization.
“We are for the whole family, any stage, any diagnosis,” she says, also serving survivors with support and education.
Now they are “taking cancer education program into the workplace and into high schools.” Twenty-five percent of cancer patients have a child under 18 at home, but you’re unlikely to find anything about the disease in school health curricula. Gilda’s Club also sponsors a teen essay contest, the results of which are on their website, www.gildasclubseattle.org.
“Grab a tissue,” Anna says.
Fundraising is a constant concern. The club is best known for the annual “Surviving With Style” fashion shows in Seattle and Tacoma, as well as for their golf tournaments.
This month brings a fun partnership with Seattle Chocolates and Majestic Bay movie theater. The chocolate company — owner Jean Thompson had a brush with cancer — has made special chocolate bars, some of which have “golden tickets” which entitle winners to a rare tour of the company. Then, on July 23 at 9:30 a.m., the Majestic Bay is donating its theater for a screening of the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory starring Gene Wilder, Gilda’s Club founder and Radner’s husband. The $20 admission includes the chocolate. There’s more information about the event and all of Gilda’s Club programs at their website.
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Tee Sheffer has worked hard building his business, Signametrics, these past two decades. Now he will be working — perhaps a little less hard — over the next two years on closing the Seattle-based company.
Last year, the very successful multi-national precision instrumentation manufacturer was approached by Agilent Technologies. After what sounds like some gentle arm-twisting, “we got bought by…the world’s largest instrument company,” Tee says.
Signametrics is “famous, in a way, in those type of circles, in instrumentation…in the electronics industry,” Tee explained to me. I can’t pretend to understand the technical details, but suffice it to say that their distribution “is all over the world.”
Their product’s “applications vary widely from battery testing for the space shuttle, to weapons system testing, to component testing, to medical electronics, and aerospace such as Boeing and EADS (Airbus),” Tee says. “Any big-name company you have heard of is using our product, from China to India.”
Your iPhone was probably tested with Signametrics equipment.
“We didn’t look for anybody” to buy the company, says Tee, who holds a dozen test and measurement patents. “They came to Seattle [with] their VPs, their big guns, and talked us into merging with their operation.”
An Israeli native — he grew up on Kibbutz Ashdot Ya’akov on the shores of the sea of Galillee — Tee and his wife Michal arrived in Seattle about 40 years ago so he could get a master’s in electrical engineering from the UW. He then worked for Fluke for 20 years. Michal, who he says “more people know than me,” worked for Jewish Family Service for many years. More recently, she’s been Signametric’s CFO and operations manager.
Work is “slowing down now,” says Tee, by which he means he’s working 40 to 50 hours a week and not the usual 60-plus. This leaves more time for flying his “simple, four-seater Cessna,” which he takes up to the San Juan Islands at least once a week in the summer.