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Diana G. Jonsson, 76; Helped Found Prominent Cancer Center at UCLA

Times Staff Writer

Diana Gordon Jonsson, who with her husband, Kenneth, helped found the Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center at UCLA, died April 28. She was 76.

Jonsson, a docent at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, collapsed as she was leading a museum tour and was taken to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead, her husband said. The exact cause of death was not known.

Born Diana Gordon in Pittsburgh, she graduated from Wellesley College as a political science major. She married Kenneth Jonsson in 1952, shortly after her graduation. The couple had four children.

Early in their marriage the Jonssons lived in Dallas, where Kenneth Jonsson, an engineer, worked at Texas Instruments.

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His father, J. Erik Jonsson, was a founder of the company.

The family moved to California and settled in Pacific Palisades in 1959.

The Jonssons began supporting the cancer research program at UCLA in the 1960s after responding to a fundraising letter about it.

“We got a tour, and we were hooked, " Kenneth Jonsson said this week.

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In the early 1970s a major contribution by the couple helped to establish the Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Last year the center was ranked the best of its kind in the western United States for the sixth consecutive year, in a national survey of board-certified physicians that was published in U.S. News & World Report.

“The Jonssons gave the lead gift and have continued to support us,” Judith C. Gasson, director of the center, said this week. “Mrs. Jonsson was always at our fundraising events. She was warm and enthusiastic, the kind of woman who brings people together.”

She supported a number of other organizations.

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She also was an art enthusiast who volunteered as a LACMA docent for more than 30 years. With her husband she was a patron of the museum.

“Diana Jonsson personified the best of what it meant to be a museum docent,” Stephen Markel, the museum’s curator of South and South-East Asian Art, said this week.

“As a volunteer she gave of her time over the long term with complete dedication.

“I was always impressed by her command of the collection. It was clear that she researched the material before she spoke about it. She was an articulate, wonderful speaker.”

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Along with her husband, Jonsson is survived by four children, Mark, Mike, Erik and Anne, and eight grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held at 2:30 p.m. May 19 at Beverly Hills Presbyterian Church, 505 N. Rodeo Drive.

Contributions in her name can be made to the Jonsson Cancer Center Foundation, online at giving.ucla.edu/cancer or by mail to Jonsson Cancer Center Foundation, Box 951780, Room 8-950 Factor Building, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1780.


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