AMERICAN CANCER SOCIETY
Grace Hightower and Robert De Niro
Jean Shafiroff and Robert De Niro
Muffie Potter Aston and Thomas Mastronardi,
communications and marketing expert
Aud Bronson-Howard, film costume designer, and
Susan Bloomberg, the mayorís former wife
Robert De Niro, Grace Hightower and Paula Zahn
Diane Reidy-Lagunes with husband Sergio and
children Alec and Keira
Emily Sonnenblick and mother Linda
Emily Sonnenblick and sister Charlotte Van Doren
Everybody Had A Cancer Story
At Mothers Of The Year Luncheon
VERYBODY had a cancer story, even Paula
Zahn. The host and executive producer of On the
Case with Paula Zahn on the Investigation Discovery channel,
who served as emcee of the American Cancer Society17th annual
Mothers of the Year Awards luncheon at the Plaza in New York,
said both her parents were diagnosed with cancer within weeks of
each other. Her father succumbed, but her mother is a two-time
breast cancer survivor.
Robert De Niro stepped up to the mic with
trepidation. He was assigned to present his wife, Grace
Hightower, with a Mother of the Year Award.
The two-time Academy Award winner looked up
meekly and said, "This is one mother you do not want to mess
with. I have to do a good job or else I wonít have any place to
He took out his glasses, unfolded his notes, and
confessed: "Preparing to be Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull,
gaining and losing weight, and battling and surviving cancer,
was nothing like the pressure I had to deal with to make this
On behalf of their two children, Elliot
and Helen, Robert praised grace as "Mother of the Year
every year Ė and today sheís yours." You can bet he slept well
Nancy Parenti, who presented the Mother of
the Year Award to Dr. Diane Reidy-Lagunes, told how she
lost hope when diagnosed with a rare cancer two years ago.
Nancyís life in Washington went from "fairy tale to nightmare."
When she came to New York for treatment by Dr. Diane
Reidy-Lagunes at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, her
life changed dramatically.
When Dr. Reidy-Lagunes told me the treatment was
working I saw how she was more excited than I."
Dr. Reidy-Lagunes, an Assistant Attending in the
department of medicine at Memorial Sloan- Kettering, revealed
that her husband Sergio suffered a stroke on their 2005
honeymoon in Vietnam. "Heís totally recovered but the image
stays with me. I see the terror of my husbandís face in every
one of my patients. I dedicate my life today so people can have
Dr. Reidy-Lagunes, who has two children, Alec,
4, and Keira, 2, said her motherís recipe for success is
education and hard work. "It works for me."
Anna Offit presented a Mother of the Year
Award to her mother, Dr. Emily Sonnenblick, and was amazed at
the loving support Emily gives to her three daughters. "She
walked us to school every morning, until we were old enough to
beg her not to."
Sometimes it can be difficult shopping with her.
"My mom can spot every imperfection on clothing." But itís this
keen observation, Anna added, "that helps her find the smallest
Dr. Sonnenblick, who founded Rosetta Radiology,
a diagnostic radiation oncology practice on the Upper East Side,
emphasized that mammograms have cut the death rate of breast
cancer by 40 percent.
With a nod to her husband, Dr. Ken Offit,
who heads clinical genetics at Memorial Sloan-Kettering, she
said that Motherís Day comes once a year but every day is
Shre didnít stop there. She also paid homage to
her mother, Linda Sonnenblick, as well as her three
daughters: Anna, a law student; Caroline, a
filmmaker and medical student, and Lily, a college
Among those who applauding the honorees were
Muffie Potter Aston, a 2011 Mother of the Year; Susan
Bloomberg, ex-wife of Mayor Michael Bloomberg and a 2003
MOY; Charlotte Ford, a 2004 MOY; Cynthia Lufkin, a 2008
MOY; Dr. Freya Schnabel, a 2011 MOY.
Also Ce Ce Black, Wendy Carduner, Jean
Doumanian, Somers Farkas, Diana Feldman, Caroline Hirsch,
Stewart F. Lane, Bonnie Comley Lane, Wendy Mazo, Adam Nashban,
Jen Podell, Peggy Siegal, and Allison Stern.
Audy Bronson-Howard, a costume designer for
films, felt especially proud as De Niro introduced Grace. Audy
designed the clothes for De Niroís new film, Being Flynn,
costarring Julianne Moore, which premiered that day.
"I designed the costume for his role as a
homeless man," she told me. "I hope he doesnít wear the clothes
too good, otherwise Iíll be out of a job."
As stars have been known to keep the clothes
they wear on the screen, I wondered if De Niro will keep his
from this film. Then, again, what will he do with a homeless
manís clothing Ė strut the red carpet? "I donít know what
happens to the wardrobe I designed," Audy said tactfully.