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Bob Engelke & Cynthia Pillsbury: Giving in Louise’s Memory

“If you are fortunate to be given opportunities, it should be your humble duty to give back,” says Cynthia Pillsbury.

In 2016, Bob Engelke lost his wife, Louise, to breast cancer after a years-long battle. After this devastating loss, Bob and their daughter, Cynthia Pillsbury, yearned for a fresh start. Three years later, Cynthia moved from San Francisco to Edwards with her husband, Philip, and their three children, while Bob settled into his Vail home that same year.

Vail has always been an important part of the Engelke family’s life. Bob and Louise started skiing here in the early 1970s, and Cynthia learned to ski when she was only three years old. While attending the University of Colorado Boulder, Cynthia and her friends often visited Bob and Louise in East Vail during the ski season. “We have such happy memories in Vail as a family,” Cynthia says. She remembers her dad saying, “A family that skis together, stays together!” She couldn’t agree more.

From Teens to Lifelong Partners

Bob and Louise met in Minnesota in the summer of 1962 when they were 18. They fell in love, married five years later, and started a family. Their daughter, Cynthia, was born with a congenital heart defect that required open-heart surgery. “Almost losing Cynthia within the first year of her birth changed our view of life. Louise and I became more active with children’s causes in Minneapolis,” says Bob. The couple long supported the Children’s Cancer Research Fund of the University of Minnesota, where Louise served on the board and Bob on the fundraising committee. They also gave to the Minneapolis Children’s Hospital.

“Dad was a busy lawyer who would travel overseas; even so, I remember him leaving Christmas Eve dinner early to count the holiday collections at our church. He also volunteered with Lutheran Social Services of Minnesota for 12 years and established its first foundation,” Cynthia recalls. “Mom had a stationery store but seemed to be a full-time volunteer, co-chairing the gala for the Children’s Cancer Research Fund and helping adoptive families find each other at Lutheran Social Services. She was always helping people.”

Bob adds, “Louise was the most empathetic human being ever.”

Giving In Memory Of Louise Engelke

Contributing to the Community

After her mother passed from breast cancer, Cynthia took proactive measures by opting for a double mastectomy while still in California. These experiences, along with Bob’s brush with prostate cancer and a family history of cancer, inspired them to give back to their new community.

They were immediately impressed by Vail Health Shaw Cancer Center‘s modern technology, accessibility, and personalized care in a healing environment, especially after encountering the fast pace of the urban medical center where Louise was treated.

“It’s amazing that we have a place right here in Vail to address breast health, and you don’t have to go to Denver or Glenwood Springs,” Cynthia says. “I know firsthand how important it is for a patient and their family to be surrounded by their local support group.”

Cynthia became involved with Vail Health Foundation after seeing the negative impact that the COVID-19 pandemic had on children. She serves on the board, is actively involved with the It Takes A Valley: Transforming Behavioral Health campaign, and helps fundraise for Shaw. Cynthia also played an active role in launching the Women in Philanthropy program. “I’m proud to be involved in an organization at the forefront of behavioral health,” she says.

Bob made a generous contribution to Shaw in Louise’s memory to help ensure that individuals and families in the region continue to have access to high-quality, expert cancer care. “I’m committed to providing resources for people, scientists, and doctors dealing with cancer. Everybody I know has had some cancer in their family. It’s touched everybody,” he says.

Cynthia and Philip have donated to Eagle Valley Behavioral Health’s Olivia’s Fund. They are also involved with many local organizations, such as Vail Mountain School, where Cynthia co-chairs the annual gala, and Philip serves on the board.

Giving back is a long-held family value. “My parents taught us the importance of giving back. They didn’t have much money to give, but they gave of themselves,” Bob says.

Vail Feels Like Home

Bob is embracing an active retirement in Edwards, Florida, and Minnesota. While he has hung up his skis, he still enjoys going on long walks and playing golf. Cynthia has channeled her creativity from a career in market research into Curate Art & Curiosities, an online art gallery she co-owns. She and her family love hiking and skiing, seeing live music, and enjoying the Colorado sunshine. “I love to hike. I think it’s some of the best medicine for the body, mind, and soul!” says Cynthia.

“The Vail Health Foundation is doing so much good, helping people who can’t afford healthcare and trying to create more equality in our valley. I’m honored to be a part of that mission.” Cynthia Pillsbury

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