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Of the three Bernies, he's the generous one

Although he’s no supporter of Bernie Sanders, the presidential candidate, Bernie Linder likes having his name on a T-shirt.

Even someone as cheerful as Bernie Linder fought dark thoughts when he headed into a chemotherapy treatment room at Pardee Hospital.

“Making it bearable is a large part of this process,” he said. “You walk in there and it can be a tough place. It’s a gloomy procedure.”
Linder, 81, is grateful to this day — 14 years after cancer treatment — that he got an extraordinary nurse with an extraordinary gift for lifting the darkness.
“What was important was her attitude,” he said. “She made it much more acceptable.”
Linder was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2002. He got excellent treatment, he said, from Dr. William Medina, his oncologist, and Dr. Stuart Glassman, his surgeon.
“The treatment, they poison you,” he said. “That’s the routine. While the doctors are responsible for choosing the right medication, the right dosage and the right timing and all that’s obviously critically important, the person that made it bearable was Leann Noakes. It’s not fun but she really made it bearable. Not that you look forward to the poisoning, but Leeann was just superb. So here we are 15 years later and we’re still vertical and obviously everybody did the right thing.”
Two years ago, a development in the news impressed Linder.
“From our personal standpoint, the cooperation we’ve seen in town by Blue Ridge College, Wingate, Pardee Hospital, the city — you just don’t see that,” he said of the five-party agreement (also including Henderson County) that made the $30 million cancer center and health sciences building a reality. “That put the hospital on our list of stuff that we’d like to support.”
As a result, Linder and his wife made a $10,000 donation that will name the cancer center’s patient navigator room for Leann Noakes, one of two patient navigators at Pardee.
“A navigator is the first person to reach out to the patient after a cancer diagnosis,” said Kim Hinkelman, director of the Pardee Hospital Foundation. “They take them by the hand and stick with them through the whole process.”
Linder said the fundraising campaign presented a chance to honor his navigator and also to endorse with his checkbook the rare political cooperation behind the center.
“This is a great way for us to say thank you to Leann for what she did and keeping us vertical,” Linder said. We’d like it to remember Leann Noakes. It just seems to us the perfect thing has come together. The center is important for the community. All these institutions that will use it in one form or another have come together to move the community ahead.”
Even now, 14 years since they first met, when he’s at Pardee for an appointment or routine blood test, “Leann sees me there and she says, ‘What’s wrong?’ We’re still her patient, though fortunately we’ve had no professional dealing. … At the moment we’re cancer free. What happens tomorrow, who knows? We’re doing well, walking and playing tennis and doing all the things that we enjoy doing.”
Besides regular tennis, Linder also works part-time in a financial advice business he co-owns with a daughter.
The three Bernies
If Linder’s favorite nurse had a great attitude, the pair made a good match. Linder is quick with a funny story. He shows off a Bernie Sanders shirt someone picked up from a vendor in Manhattan. Linder’s no fan of the Democratic candidate for president but figured it’s good to have his name on a shirt.
“There are three Bernies in this country who are worth talking to,” he says. “You’re obviously interviewing one of them and that’s important. There’s a guy sitting in prison in the eastern part of the state who made off with all that money, and he was a financial adviser. There’s a certain tie to this, and this guy running for president. And we all grew up in New York City and we’re all the same religion and we have similar backgrounds. We all have the same first name.”
In the happier years since he finished the successful chemo, Linder has kept in touch with Noakes. He and his wife send her postcards when they travel. He knows about her family, and she asks about his. They carried on small talk, yes, but the conversation wasn’t just killing time.
“It’s more than that,” he said. “It’s getting to know each other.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first in a series of stories about donors to Pardee Hospital’s Right Here Right Now campaign to raise $6 million for the Comprehensive Cancer Center. For information or to donate call 233-2700, email or visit