Holiday sweets may be paused, but support continues

For decades, Miriam “Mimi” Rosenblatt has been bringing holiday cheer to Dana-Farber Cancer Institute faculty and staff each December. The sound of piano fills the halls and long lines of staff form behind tables teeming with pies, cakes, and cookies.

Mimi, always easy to spot as hostess, thanks to her trademark hats, started providing her holiday sweets and songs to Dana-Farber employees in the 1990s, continuing a tradition started by her late husband, Leonard Rosenblatt, as a thank you for the care he received as a pancreatic cancer patient at the Institute.

This year, while the COVID-19 pandemic has kept Mimi from her annual Dana-Farber visits, she still felt compelled to share her best wishes and her thanks through a video to faculty and staff.  

“I miss seeing all you beautiful people, but I’m thinking of you,” Mimi said in the video. “You have a very special place in my heart, now and always.”

In addition to spreading holiday cheer, Mimi and her family also fund pancreatic cancer research through the Mayer/Kantoff Fund, started by Leonard Rosenblatt. It is named for Robert J. Mayer, MD, vice president of Faculty Affairs, who oversaw Leonard’s care along with former Dana-Farber Chief Research Officer Philip Kantoff, MD, then a trainee in Medical Oncology. 

“Mimi has and continues to be an incredible champion of our work to improve the outcomes of patients with pancreatic cancer, supporting research and encouraging her friends and family to do likewise,” says Dr. Mayer. “When I think of Mimi, I feel her warmth, see her smile, and sense her caring. People like Mimi are what make Dana-Farber a truly special place.”

Waiting for next year

The Rosenblatt family first came to Dana-Farber after Leonard’s 1987 cancer diagnosis. Motivated by the care he received, he started hosting annual catered luncheons for his caregivers. In addition, after admiring the courage of pediatric patients treated next door to where he had his infusions, he provided treats and presents to the Jimmy Fund Clinic each Halloween.

“He told me, ‘How can I be afraid, when the children and their parents are so brave?’” Mimi recalls. “He wanted to give back to them as well.”

After Leonard died in 1990, the family, led by Mimi, continued both traditions.

“We were so impressed with the empathy shown to us throughout my father’s care,” says Helane Weiner, Mimi’s daughter. “Dana-Farber has meant so much to our family, and it means so much to us to give back.”

The Rosenblatt lunches grew so popular during the mid-1990s that Mimi extended them to all staff.

“The crowds got so big that luncheons were no longer possible, so we switched to dessert,” Mimi remembers with a laugh. “Each year, Baker’s Best does a wonderful job catering for us, as does Steven Heck on piano.”

In addition to her husband, Mimi Rosenblatt’s mother Eva Brautman and sister Elaine Smith also died of pancreatic cancer. Brautman, like Leonard, was treated at Dana-Farber, and the family sees the fund as a meaningful way to honor the memory of all their loved ones.

“Unfortunately, my family knows the devastation of this horrible disease,” says Bart Rosenblatt, Mimi’s son. “We hope that in some small way, the fund my father started, and my mother has continued, will someday help find a cure.”

In the meantime, Mimi hopes to get back to her sweet traditions.

“I look forward to being together with you next year, greeting old friends and making new ones.”

– Saul Wisnia

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Communications