Jun 15, 2021  By Sue Bookbinder  Category: Special Needs,

Soulmates keep love alive forever through humanitarian passion

Can you imagine a happy, prosperous, successful couple, living in NYC and thinking about the wonderful things in store for them. Two healthy, smart, professionals who have found their passions and the careers that fulfill them. That describes Sue and Art Bookbinder on election day in 1976 as they walked into Art’s ophthalmologist office for Art’s routine eye exam. When Art came out of the exam room, he was crying. 

Art had just found out that he had a condition called Retinitis Pigmentosa and would slowly lose his vision within five years. Art was a partner and executive director of a successful NYC medical practice. Because of the surprising medical news, Art shifted his career to work for a California company that produced and sold hi-tech products for the blind and visually impaired. He loved his job since it changed the lives of so many blind customers. That passion was obvious to all who worked with him.

Art’s easy transition was only his first. He then developed colon cancer, non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, Large Cell Lymphoma of the liver and spleen, and melanoma that metastasized. In 1986, Sue got the surprising news that she had Multiple Sclerosis – just one more challenge for the Bookbinders to accept. Then Art passed away in April 2020, due to the devastating effects of his many cancers. 

Art and Sue were always involved with community service. They founded the Lighthouse of Collier, a non-profit that works to foster independence and enhance the quality of life for the blind, visually impaired and their caregivers.  

While attending a luncheon, they were seated next to Tiran Attia, Director of Jewish thumbnail_art with hat National Fund-USA’s Special In Uniform, an innovative program that integrates youth with special needs into the Israel Defense Forces and helps prepare them for a career following army service. Art and Sue were immediately drawn to the mission and knew they needed to become involved. Never ones to do something halfway, they stepped up to support the program, and a month before Art passed away, they received the JNF-USA Tree of Life Award. 

A few days before he died, Art asked Sue to promise him two things: First, that she would be strong and second, that she would continue working on the humanitarian causes the two of them had believed in during their 50 years of marriage.

How could Sue refuse her soulmate? Sue joined the Board of Directors of the Lighthouse of Collier and JNF-USA. Sue had already fallen in love with the JNF-USA’s Special In Uniform program and realized the immense impact the program is having not only on the families of those with special needs, but upon all of Israeli society. Through Sue’s actions, the Bookbinder Family Foundation decided to sponsor JNF-USA’s Training Center for Special in Uniform at the Palmachim Air Force Base currently under construction.  

Sue says, "Art would be happy".

Author, Sue Bookbinder lives in Naples, Florida and is on JNF-USA's Naples Board of Directors and JNF-USA's Disability Task Force. For more information on JNF-USA's work with Disabilities & Special Needs, please contact Yossi Kahana