A Loving Tribute to Elmo’s Friends Phyllis and Tony Geiss - NFCR


A Loving Tribute to Elmo’s Friends Phyllis and Tony Geiss

A Legacy to Support Cancer Research

Phyllis and Tony Geiss lived long and extraordinary lives filled with many accomplishments.  NFCR has been the recipient of a generous gift from the Geiss Estate which will be able to move cancer research forward in a very significant way.  We would like to share with you a window into this inspirational couple’s lives.

Phyllis and Tony were perfectly matched.  Married more than 60 years, both possessed qualities of warmth, modesty, humor and intellect.  For a major anniversary, Tony had a star named for Phyllis in the National Star Registry.  He gave the gift to her with a card that read, “Twinkle, twinkle, little wife.  Thank you for a perfect life!”

Phyllis distinguished herself academically which led to a stellar career in advertising and banking.   A dear friend reflects, “Phyllis was tiny, reserved, and soft-spoken, with an incisive mind and a dry wit.  She delighted in having people over for dinner and throwing large New Year’s parties. Her grateful dinner guests continue to savor the memory of her divine sticky pudding.  She was a creative, original thinker, and although she worked very well in a corporate setting, she was unconstrained by tradition.  Her cousin told of a visit with Phyllis to the Sistine Chapel.  When her cousin said she did not feel she was getting an adequate view of the ceiling by craning her neck, Phyllis pulled her to a place with less traffic and lay down on the floor looking up.  ‘Now we can see it!’”

Loved and esteemed by his colleagues, Tony’s genius lay in entertaining, educating and enchanting children and adults alike.  One of his colleagues tells the story about one of their first meetings as Sesame Street writers: When someone suggested that they “brainstorm,” Tony replied immediately, “Oh–if I had known there would be a brainstorm, I would have worn a braincoat!” If you have been around children at any time since the 1970s, you will undoubtedly have been fondly aware of Tony’s Sesame Street characters, songs and storylines.

For over three decades, Tony’s gifted writing and composing, along with his talent as a lyricist created Elmo’s Song, the Honkers, and Abby Cadabby, among many other memorable characters and familiar songs.  Tony also delighted his audience by co-writing three films: Follow that Bird, The Land Before Time and An American Tail.  The 22 Emmys he helped Sesame Street earn were among many won by the show since it first aired in 1969. Tony gave so much pleasure to so many people that he can truly be named a national treasure.  As of 2009, Sesame Street co-productions were broadcast in more than 140 countries.  Today, it is almost impossible to count the number of children who are enjoying and learning with Sesame Street all around the world!

Phyllis and Tony made their decisions about charitable contributions jointly to reflect their passions and interests.  During their lifetime, they were loyal and generous donors to the National Foundation for Cancer Research and it has been enormously gratifying to learn that they valued our mission to fund innovative cancer research enough to remember us in their estate plans.   Phyllis and Tony Geiss were extremely accomplished individuals, and as a team, their partnership was happy and harmonious. Their philanthropic work will enable NFCR to find new ways to prevent, detect and treat all types of cancer.  NFCR is enormously grateful and honored by their generosity and foresight.   Trustees of the Geiss Estate say “Phyllis and Tony deeply valued worldwide efforts in health care and protecting the environment.  They would have been greatly inspired and gratified to see and advance the work that NFCR is doing to unify discoveries in cancer research around the world and to integrate information on a global scale.”

Learning, having fun, and good health, are vital components for the well-being of anyone, anywhere.  NFCR will honor the Geiss’ generosity by promoting cancer research to ensure that people worldwide can enjoy good health, enabling them to lead productive and joyful lives.

From Elaine Currie, NFCR Donor Relations Officer