Mrs. Roberta Neustadter
By Kimberly Carlisle
A community treasure
Roberta Neustadter’s life is rich with color. Red poinsettias line the walkway to her mustard-yellow home in San Francisco’s Sea Cliff neighborhood. And her fifty-seven-year relationship with California Pacific Medical Center and the Institute for Health & Healing began with pink: the color she wore while working the hospital corridors as a volunteer.
“My first job was wheeling the book cart from room to room as one of the hospital’s first volunteers,” she recalls. “Soon I graduated to pushing the toiletry cart.” From then —1955– on, Mrs. Neustadter worked in “every volunteer role there was” including opening the hospital’s gift shop, serving on the volunteer auxiliary’s Board of Directors, and even working alongside emergency room doctors to assist and soothe patients. “I loved the work simply because I had fun being there with nice people,” Mrs. Neustadter says. Three decades later she resigned, to care for her ailing husband, Newton, a San Francisco stock broker with Sutro & Co. and an avid sailor and fisherman.
Mr. Neustadter’s death birthed the second phase of Mrs. Neustadter’s relationship with CPMC: as a donor. “For tax purposes, I needed to begin charitable giving, so I approached CPMC and asked, ‘Where is your need?’” she explains. “They were planning the Institute for Health & Healing (IHH) and had the idea to create a Mini Medical School through which the public could take free courses in health care from leading experts in the field.” Entering its 14th year, the Roberta E. Neustadter Mini Medical School in Integrative Medicine has emerged as a unique Bay Area resource, and its attendance over the years has increased nine-fold.
Mrs. Neustadter has also helped to build two scholarship funds for patients facing financial hardship. Through the Neustadter Patient Assistance Fund, the IHH has been able to provide acupuncture, bodywork and other healing services to thousands of patients suffering from conditions ranging from cancer to heart disease to chronic pain. And the Neustadter Scholarship Fund makes it possible for thousands more people to attend IHH classes on nutrition, Chi Kung, yoga, meditation and other topics, giving them valuable tools to cope better with their illnesses.
Says William Stewart, M.D., co-founder and medical director of the IHH, “Her giving is royal – she gives from the heart, without expectation of getting something back. And of course she gets back abundant gratitude and inspired stories of her impact.”
Her sharp memory and sparkling spirit belie her age – a stunning 97! “How have I lived so long and stayed so healthy?” Mrs. Neustadter chuckles. “Well, I just keep on living, staying active, and enjoying the company of good people.”
Because life is precious, we encourage giving to life, and a lifetime of giving.
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