The Madison, Wis., chapter of the national cancer support group Gilda's Club is the latest affiliate to change its name, saying many no longer know who actress-comedian Gilda Radner was.
MIDDLETON, Wis. — Remember Roseanne Roseannadana? Or Emily Litella? Younger generations might not recognize the characters popularized by actress and comedian Gilda Radner. Nor might they remember Radner, an original cast member on “Saturday Night Live” who died 23 years ago of ovarian cancer and for whom a national cancer-support group is named.
That’s troubling to the Madison-area chapter of Gilda’s Club, which planned to change its name, in part because of concern that many don’t know who Radner was. The move prompted anger from some Radner fans.
Lannia Syren Stenz, the Madison-area club’s executive director, said her organization decided to change its name to Cancer Support Community Southwest Wisconsin after it realized most college students were born after Radner died in 1989.
“We want to make sure that what we are is clear to” younger cancer patients, Stenz told the Wisconsin State Journal.
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Her comments angered some Radner fans, who let loose criticism on the organization’s Facebook page.
“The only educating you’re doing is teaching kids that when they die from cancer, their name will be erased from history in 20 years … Way to give them hope!” wrote Mark Warneke, 44, of Arlington, Texas.
Stenz referred questions to Linda House, executive vice president of the national group. House said the name change was motivated by the desire to make the organization’s mission clear.
Radner, who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 1986, sought support from The Wellness Community in California and wrote about her experience in her book “It’s Always Something.”
Her friends and family started Gilda’s Club in 1991 to honor her legacy.
Gilda’s Club Worldwide merged with The Wellness Community in 2009. Local chapters could keep their names or switching to Cancer Support Community, House said.
Twenty chapters, including the one in Seattle, retained the Gilda’s Club name, three are Wellness Community and 23 are Cancer Support Community.
Radner’s husband, actor Gene Wilder, said he didn’t like the name change but he understood it.