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The Cedars Cancer Foundation mourns the loss of Vivian Saykaly

Vivian Saykaly cedarsmourns

The Cedars Cancer Foundation mourns the loss of Vivian Saykaly - a past Chair and longtime Cedars supporter and a founding charter member of its precursor the Harley Chamandy Memorial Fund. 

In 1966, Vivian and her husband, Ernie, along with Joe and Shirley and Edward Chamandy, George Lutfy, William Cook and Dr Edward Tabah established the Harley Chamandy Memorial Fund which eventually morphed into the Cedars Cancer Foundation. Since it’s inception, Vivian worked enthusiastically and tirelessly to advance the cause of Cedars. She had found her calling in life. In the early years she and Diane Shaheen, Dr Tabah’s Executive Secretary manned the Loto-Quebec ticket kiosk outside the old RVH cafeteria and arranged the annual rummage sale at the Hersey Pavilion of goods which she solicited from her extensive contacts in what was then a vibrant needle-trade in Montreal. She helped organize multiple events including the Cedars outings to the old Blue Bonnets, celebrity visits from singer Paul Anka and entertainer Danny Thomas, and Vivian organized a tribute in 1986 to her dear friend Dr Edward J. Tabah in whom she found inspiration. Never one to miss an opportunity, her creativity, energy and boundless devotion to Cedars was evident as she spearheaded many inaugural events and unique fundraisers. By the 1980’s the Cedars was firmly established but Mrs, Saykaly was dissatisfied with the modest sums being collected and sought to expand the activities of the Cedars by first expanding its ability to raise funds. Mrs. Saykaly saw to the establishment and promotion of the annual Cedars Raffle and golf tournament as well as galas, shows and a long variety of social events all aimed at securing funding for the Cedars and its ever-growing obligations. She welcomed Gwen Andrews Nacos to the Cedars community and helped her establish Cedars CanSupport program and services. Vivian served as Chair of Cedars between 1978 and 1982 – an era which saw the opening of the Edward J. Tabah Oncology Day Center at the RVH in 1979 and the establishment of the Cedars Breast Clinic in 1980 which eventually evolved into the current MUHC Breast Center. She sat on the Board of Directors of the Cedars from 1966 to 1987 and remained an unofficial, lifelong roaming ambassador of Cedars. In 1992 the Vivian Saykaly Visiting Professorship in Medical Oncology was established to honour her ongoing commitment to Cedars.

Small in stature, Vivian was a dynamo and a force of nature to whom no one could refuse. She was kind and filled with grace as she took a genuine interest in those she encountered in life. Mrs Saykaly has gone about her business with quiet humility often avoiding the accolades of the spotlight. One may never truly appreciate the extent of her philanthropy as many of her “good deeds” were more often low key or anonymous. In addition to her pivotal role in Cedars, a number of other institutions including the Antiochian Orthodox Church, the Lebanese Syrian Canadian Association’s Ladies Aid Society, the Cedars Home for the Elderly, the former Montréal Community 8th
Chapter for the Mentally Retarded, and the Montreal Association for the Blind all benefited from Vivian Saykaly’s leadership and philanthropy.

Arguably, it can be said that the Cedars Cancer Foundation would not exist today were it not for Vivian Saykaly’s pioneering efforts in its fragile early years. Deepest condolences to her daughters Nancy Saykaly Souaid and Janet Saykaly Dussault and her son Mark Saykaly and their families. Her leadership and inspiration will be sorely missed. May she rest in Peace.