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  • "I was a patient of Dr. Wollner's at MSKCC in the mid-70's. ..."
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Wollner, adored wife, mother, grandmother, sister, physician, died in her home Sunday, July 30th, surrounded by her family. She was born in 1929 and raised in Sao Paulo, Brazil, daughter of a poor but fabulous seamstress, and Norma made her way, against great odds, to medical school. She moved to New York City when she was 26 to do her residency at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, where she met and married fellow oncologist Stephen Sternberg, and where she served as a pediatric oncologist for the next 40 years. Norma had a distinguished and incomparable career at the hospital, developing treatments which substantially increased the cure rate for nonhodgkins lymphoma, starting the Brazilian children's Fund on behalf of hospital patients from her home country, and starting the Cancer Center's pediatric day hospital, a novel and game-changing concept in cancer care. Norma was the kind of dedicated physician that everyone hopes for, who never hesitated to take phone calls in the middle of the night from sick patients and worried parents. We will all miss her commitment, compassion, intelligence and endless depth of knowledge. Norma and her husband Stephen together devoted over 90 years of service to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, holding hands and walking to work every morning, until they retired in 1999. Norma was an avid gardener and cook, and for many years she and Stephen spent weekends at their beautiful Croton on Hudson country home, cooking, planting, pruning, weeding, and playing with their dogs, with martinis in hand. No one could throw a party like Norma, and she did so with her South American flair, creativity and contagious passion twice a year for most of her adult life. Norma was beloved and treasured by so many. She was fully Norma until the end, keen of mind, quick to laugh, with a fierce and loving spirit, priding herself on "telling it like it is." Norma is sorely missed by her loving and devoted husband of 59 years, Stephen; by her grandson, Murray, whom she cherished; by her loving daughters, Sue and Alessandra (James); brother, Alexandre Wollner (Lais); and by her ever-faithful "right hand," Catarina.

Published in The New York Times on Aug. 8, 2017
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