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From Generosity To Legacy: Honoring My Father’s Impact On Type 1 Diabetes This Father’s Day – Children’s Diabetes Foundation

By: Stacy Robinson

With Father’s Day just around the corner, I am thinking about my dad even more than I usually do. He was a special man who lived a remarkable, impactful life right up until the day he passed away at the age of 98, a little over a year and a half ago. He was a decorated World War II veteran, a bookie in Vegas during the Rat Pack era who married the love of his life between rounds of a prize fight, and who later went on to become a successful entrepreneur. Most importantly though, he was a devoted husband, father and grandfather.

As an only child, I was particularly close to my parents, my father especially. We were buddies, partners in crime when my mom slept in late on weekends. Some of my fondest memories were of our weekly Saturday morning excursions to Pinks hot dogs in West Hollywood for chili dogs for breakfast, followed by chocolate malts at Foster’s Freeze. For a little kid, this was pretty much the coolest. Though Dad was a lifelong Giants fan, we had season tickets to the Dodgers, and we loved keeping score together and tracking the stats of my favorite players. When I was in high school, he enjoyed brainstorming themes with me for papers I had procrastinated writing. He was always very present and supported my interests and pursuits, and made me feel that, with hard work, I could accomplish anything I set my mind to. He was also quite strict, and everyone knew this about my dad. And yet…ours was the house where the kids hung out after school, on weekends, for study sessions, and sleepovers. He had a unique way of connecting with people — he was interested in their lives and cared about them, and everyone always felt welcome. This extended to my college and adult friends, and later to my own children’s friends. My father was widely adored and respected because he was an encourager who had a beautiful way of putting life in perspective and setting people’s minds at ease. He was also a humble, unpretentious man who valued people and experiences over things, moderation over excess. I learned so much by the example he set: the importance of family, of honor, integrity, appreciating what we have, and making a difference where we can. And I believe he made a tremendous difference.

Dad was quietly generous to many individuals and organizations over the years – which gave him immense pleasure. When I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of 25, he and my mother supported our local Los Angeles JDRF, and then when I moved to Denver in the 90s and became active with the Children’s Diabetes Foundation (CDF), they became steadfast supporters of the Davis’ mission to fund cutting-edge research and the finest clinical care at the Barbara Davis Center. From fundraising events to annual giving, my dad never missed an opportunity to help the T1D community through the CDF. When my mother passed away, he and I worked with the Foundation to establish a research fund at the Barbara Davis Center (BDC) in her name, as a way to honor her. And now, my husband Jeff and I are grateful to be able to honor my dad and his beautiful legacy by establishing The Les Mendelson Mental Fund to help fund mental healthcare for patients at the BDC. My father was not one to bring attention to himself, but I can’t think of a better way to thank him for all he did than to pay his generosity forward. Because he wasn’t just of the Greatest Generation, he was the greatest.

Wishing all the devoted type 1 Dads out there a very happy Father’s Day!