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Keeping Jonathan's "Awesome" Spirit Alive

March 2, 2011

Instead of dwelling on the time her son spent battling lymphoma, Debra Jonas pictures him laughing.

“He had a really smart, witty sense of humor, and it didn’t waver when he was sick,” Debra says.

When Jonathan was in treatment at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, Debra stayed with him, laughed with him and went to all of his appointments –and then there was the morning Debra overslept.

“The nurse came in to get Jonathan for his appointment, and I wasn’t ready,”Debra says. “I was always early for everything! Jonathan thought it was hysterical. It was his gotcha moment.”

While Debra and Jonathan’s father Stephen, two brothers, grandparents, nieces, nephews and many more family members and friends each cope with the loss of Jonathan in their own way, they also join together to carry on his spirit.

“Jonathan was all about helping people and healing the world,” Debra says. “We talked about how he could make sure other people wouldn’t go through the same pain. He decided that starting a fund to support cancer research, education and patient care was the best thing to do.”

The first gifts to the Jonathan Adam Jonas Cancer Research Fund, made in Jonathan’s honor, arrived at the Barnes-Jewish Hospital Foundation in 1985 shortly after his death from complications of a brain tumor. His fund has since supported many projects that will bring us closer to better treatment and cure.

Most recently, Jonathan’s Fund enabled leading cancer physicians to visit the Alvin J. Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine to share with and learn from the Siteman team, so that current research, and trends in treatment are spread across the country. His fund has also recently supported the purchase of significant pieces of equipment crucial to research, and psychosocial services that help cancer patients through emotional turmoil that threatens their ability to fight cancer.

“Jonathan’s favorite word was ‘awesome,’ and that is the best way to describe the impact of his legacy fund,” Debra says.

The Jonas family has deep appreciation for loved ones with roots in St. Louis, Boston, Connecticut, New York and cities across the country who continue to support the fund in Jonathan’s honor. The Jonases are happy to be notified by the Barnes-Jewish Hospital Foundation each time someone supports his fund (the amount given remains confidential). They then write thank you notes to each giver, and so does the Barnes-Jewish Hospital Foundation.

“Jonathan took care of his friends and was also close with their families,” Debra says. “We feel lucky to still be in touch with so many of them. The continued success of Jonathan’s fund has clearly been a community effort.”

One example of continued support came from Jonathan’s grandmother Esther Jonas, who was committed to perpetuating his fund. When she died in late 2010, the family requested that donations in her memory be made to her grandson’s fund. And then there are his nieces and nephews.

“Even though they did not have the chance to meet their charismatic uncle, they hear about him often through the stories we all share,” Debra says, “and they donate monetary gifts they receive at holidays to their uncle’s fund.”

To support the Barnes-Jewish Hospital Foundation’s Jonathan Adam Jonas Cancer Research Fund (#7115), please click "give now" at the top of the page or send your gift to Jonathan Adam Jonas Cancer Research Fund #7115, 1001 Highlands Plaza Dr. West, Suite 140, Saint Louis, MO 63110.
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