Sprigs of white flowers hung at the end of each pew, and in one were the three blond, blue-eyed children of Cynthia Lufkin, who died on July 3 at age 51 of complications from lung and breast cancer.
“She was the best person I knew,” said her eldest daughter, Schuyler.
The memorial service on July 12 was held at St. Andrew’s Dune Church in Southampton, New York, the same Episcopal church where 13 years ago Dan Lufkin married her. He spoke softly during the service of his wife’s strength, bravery and optimism.
The many figures in the church from business, philanthropy and the arts attested to the couple’s range of interests. William Donaldson, a co-founder with Dan Lufkin of Donaldson Lufkin & Jenrette, and former top executives of the firm Carl Tiedemann and Carl Menges were there to support their “longtime friend and old-time partner,” Donaldson said. Also present were venture capitalist Alan Patricof and real-estate developers David Walentas and Richard LeFrak.
Cynthia Lufkin, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005, served as co-chairman of the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. Her fellow co-chairman, Kinga Lampert, and board member Leonard Lauder had begun the day of the memorial with a meeting about the foundation’s website.
Many donations have been made in her memory, so the foundation has created a fund named after Lufkin that will support research in immunotherapy. The nonprofit ended the June 30 fiscal year raising more than $50 million for research.
“She was a great leader, always unflappable, no matter what her health situation,” Lauder said.
“Two weeks ago she was calling me to say, ’I spotted someone in the paper who might help, let’s send some research,’” said Myra Biblowit, the foundation’s president.
Lufkin took on the leadership of the foundation’s annual luncheon after the death from cancer of BCRF’s founder, Evelyn Lauder. The luncheon on Oct. 15 will be dedicated to Lufkin, who graduated from Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, with a degree in biochemistry.
The lunch, which honors scientists, “was her favorite event. She asked questions of the scientists and she went deep in the most productive way,” Biblowit said. “It’s a luxury to have someone like that.”
Lufkin also helped develop fitness and nutrition services at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center to help women with breast cancer. Even for those who didn’t know them personally, Lufkin and Lauder did much to make the Cancer Center a place of hope.
Working at Tiffany & Co. in public relations, Lufkin built friendships in society, and after she left that job worked on behalf of a number of New York-based charities. Gillian Miniter served with her on the Central Park Conservancy Women’s Committee. The Lufkins served as co-chairmen of the Juilliard School’s Centennial Gala.
With Allison Rockefeller and Muffie Potter Aston, she raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the Museum of the City of New York. Their refined parties evoked the glamour of old New York.
Attractive, charming and possessed of a wonderful laugh and smile, Cynthia Lufkin stood out at these events, yet what made her a prized friend were the bonds she forged in private.
Aston during the service recalled a phone call in which Lufkin offered the use of her home in Amagansett for a month.
“I told her with new twins, I did not think there would be beds for them to sleep in,” Aston said. “Cyn called back to tell me she’d just rented two cribs for a month. I don’t know about you, but I don’t know anyone else who rents furniture for house guests.”
During the service, the Reverend Peter Larsen said he was working the hot-dog stand at a community event when he was called to officiate at the Lufkins’ wedding as a last-minute replacement.
“I changed clothes -- I smelled liked hot dogs -- and I came to the church,” he said. “I’m a happily married man, but she was beautiful, and I met Dan, too.”
Lufkin sent a photograph of her and her husband listening to the children’s choir at the wedding, which hangs in the church’s hall.
Architect Jaquelin T. Robertson, former dean of the University of Virginia School of Architecture, also spoke at the service, which concluded with a hymn accompanied by the organ. Outside the church, attendees moved to a reception next door at the Bathing Corporation of Southampton. Children played on the beach.
“I’m so glad everyone is here to honor Cynthia,” said Dan Lufkin as he stood on one of the club’s outdoor decks.
Wendy Carduner, chairman of the club Doubles at Manhattan’s Sherry Netherland Hotel, helped introduce the couple.
“I’ve known Dan for 40 years. Dan needed someone who could jog and also look fabulous in Chanel. She just had to be really versatile and love life. And when I met Cynthia, I knew it needed to be her. She made him the happiest he’s ever been.”
(Amanda Gordon is a writer and photographers for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are her own.)
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