Sue P. Cummings, 99; Founded Youth Charity

From a Times Staff Writer

Sue P. Cummings, philanthropist, socialite and widow of the late Ambassador Theodore E. Cummings, has died. She was 99.

Cummings died Friday of natural causes at her Beverly Hills home.

In 1960, Cummings founded Friends of Youth, a group of about 40 women who raised money for organizations and institutions that aided underprivileged children. She established the group’s creed as “good friends in deed to little friends in need” and personally donated thousands of dollars for Friends of Youth causes.


Among the group’s projects were a child cancer research center at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, a Saugus home for retarded children, several camps and an emergency relief fund for children unable to get help from existing agencies. The women also delivered gifts to Juvenile Hall at Christmas and other occasions.

In 1963, as a means of honoring her husband, Cummings paid for UCLA’s purchase of 33,520 prized volumes, primarily in Hebrew, from a defunct bookstore in Israel. The collection became the core of the university library’s special collection of Hebraica and Judaica and greatly bolstered its fledgling Hebrew studies program.

Along with her husband, who served as U.S. ambassador to Austria in 1981 and died in 1982, Cummings was a major supporter of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, the Los Angeles Music Center and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

She was appointed by President Reagan, a family friend, to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Advisory Council.

Born in what was then Austria-Hungary, Cummings immigrated to the United States with her family when she was 4 and later studied accounting at Pace University.

After marrying in 1934, Cummings and her husband settled in Los Angeles, where they founded Food Giant Markets and Unimart.

A popular hostess, Cummings gave lavish parties in her home for Republican friends, including Reagan, former Lt. Gov. Mike Curb and former Gov. and U.S. Sen. Pete Wilson, and for such newsmakers as heart transplant specialist Michael DeBakey.

Cummings is survived by two daughters, Gloria Sherwood of Los Angeles and Vivian Snyder of Mill Valley; two sisters, Rose Joffee of Los Angeles and Sylvia Radom of Passaic, N.J.; six grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.