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Family First

One couple’s generosity nurtures their St. Jude “family.”

By Kerry Healy

Charles and Connie Cotros

Charles and Connie Cotros

For Charles and Connie Cotros, family comes first. Throughout Charles’ successful career in the food industry, he and his wife adhered to that crucial priority.

“We really love each other and spend as much time together as we can,” Connie says.

In 1974, Charles sold his family’s business in Memphis, Tennessee, to Sysco, a national restaurant food and supply distribution company. In a career that spanned more than 30 years, he served in various leadership positions including being named chief executive officer in 2000. Upon his retirement in 2003, he became interim CEO of Allied Waste Services in Scottsdale, Arizona.

“I only agreed to take the position on the condition that I would come home every weekend,” he says.

Charles and Connie put their St. Jude family first, too. “We grew up right down the street from St. Jude,” Connie says. “We knew it was a great thing that hospital founder Danny Thomas was doing, and that it was going to be successful.”

Lifelong supporters of the hospital, the couple participated in various events benefiting St. Jude, including sponsoring a gala in Houston, Texas. The couple also established a charitable trust to be distributed to several charities upon the death of the surviving spouse. “St. Jude’s share was the most,” Charles says.

But then the plan changed.

We’ve got to find a cure. I hope what we have done will also encourage others to help.

- Charles Cotros

“After we established the trust, we decided we wanted to see the good we are doing now, while we are still alive,” Charles says.

So the couple released those funds to support the new inpatient floors in the Kay Research and Care Center, the hospital’s newest patient care facility. The gift celebrated the couple’s 54th wedding anniversary and honored Connie’s deep love of the hospital and its mission.

“Our hearts go out to every child battling cancer,” she says. “We visit the hospital often, and we always feel thankful when we see the kids, but sorrow at the same time, for what they are going through.”

“As wealthy as we are in America, we’ve got to find a cure,” Charles says. “I hope what we have done will also encourage others to help.”

In June 2016, the couple will unite their entire clan—three children, 11 grandchildren and their St. Jude family—when they visit the hospital to celebrate the unveiling of the patient care space named in Connie’s honor and their granddaughter’s birthday.

“Those are the best times,” Connie says, “when we are all together.”

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