How Tragedy Fuels 37 Years of Service

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"To know that someone with lung disease will live, will love, will be loved for another week, another month, another year and beyond - it doesn’t get better than that."Jon Rosen

Jon Rosen has vivid memories as a kid of going to New York Giants football games with his father, Milton Rosen. Milton struggled with emphysema, a progressive disease without a cure that progressed over the years and made him increasingly dependent on supplemental oxygen. Still, he did not let that stop him from taking his son to his favorite sporting event. “In the beginning, he would climb a dozen or more steps to get to our seats before he’d have to stop and catch his breath. As the disease progressed, he’d have to rest after every six steps, then after every three steps, then after each step even though he was on oxygen,” Jon recalled. But he was a fighter and while emphysema  slowed him down, his drive and determination to live life to its fullest allowed him to outlive his life expectancy and remain active.

When Milton entered the terminal phase of the disease, Jon remembers one truly heartbreaking conversation. “He turned to me and asked, ‘Jonny, why is it so hard to die?’ I had no answer, but knew at that moment the alarm had sounded and it was my destiny to join the fight against this cruel, unforgiving disease,” said Jon.

And join he did. After Milton’s death in 1981, Jon and his family discovered the American Lung Association while looking for places to donate to in his memory. Intrigued, Jon did further research and found out there was a local chapter in White Plains, New York just ten minutes from his house. He joined the board in 1983, was subsequently elected chair, and thus began his illustrious 37-year career with the Lung Association. 

Currently serving his fourth term on the National Board of Directors, Jon previously led a number of revolutionary initiatives during his years of service, including the auto donation program in New York that brought in more than $400,000 in a single year. He also led the board commitment to funding a new research initiative, then called the Asthma Clinical Research Centers Network.

“To know that someone with lung disease will live, will love, will be loved for another week, another month, another year and beyond - it doesn’t get better than that.” 

Jon’s father always remains top-of-mind with his legacy and voice serving as constant motivators.

When Jon received the Lung Association’s prestigious Volunteer Excellence Award in June of 2018, he felt his father’s presence strongly. “I thought about my dad throughout my acceptance speech, very much wishing that he could have been with me. As I headed back to my table, I could hear him saying, ‘I’m so proud of you, Jonny.’ And one more time he made me smile.”

Page last updated: January 20, 2021

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