Remembering Gertrude “Trudy” Kornfein

Mar 1, 2023

Gertrude “Trudy” Kornfein (Aug. 1928 – Dec. 2022) dedicated her life to her three children and mental health advocacy.

She was first introduced to NAMI when her daughter, Shari, had a mental health crisis in her teens in the 1970s. At the time, mental health parity was a distant dream, and Trudy and her husband George learned they would have to pay for Shari’s month-long hospital stay out-of-pocket. This was not financially possible for the family. The only way Trudy and George could ensure Shari continued to receive the care she needed was by giving up guardianship and turning over the cost of her treatment to the state. It was a decision no parent should ever have to make.

As a result of this experience, mental health parity became one of Trudy’s greatest passions, leading her to testify in front of the New York State Legislature. Her youngest child, Marion, described her as a tireless advocate who never gave up; someone with a quiet tenacity and understated fierceness. Trudy’s rallying cry was “You do things. You make things happen.”

“Trudy Kornfein embodied the spirit of NAMI through and through. She fought tirelessly throughout her life to help individuals and families dealing with mental health challenges and inspired countless others on her journey, myself included.”

– Michelle Vaughan, NAMI’s Senior Development Manager

In finding care and support for Shari, Trudy did everything possible to ensure her daughter could live a life with dignity. She worked hard to overcome obstacles that would have otherwise kept the family apart and continuously educated herself on mental health. She never gave up. Trudy’s children described her as a lifelong learner (who always carried a book), a fearless advocate and a kind-hearted person who embraced everyone as they were.

Throughout this time, Trudy also sought out other families impacted by mental illness. She became active with NAMI at all levels of the organization — national, state and local — and was generous with her time, energy and philanthropy. She served on several boards, even volunteering as Vice President in her seventies, held fundraisers and arranged a planned gift to NAMI National.

Tragically, Shari passed away in Sept. 2022. Trudy made the decision to devote a portion of her personal wealth to mental health, specifically people and organizations that matched her values. Part of her will included a $100,000 contribution to the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation with the hope that one day researchers will find a cure or at least better treatment options for mental illness. With this gift, Trudy honored and brought additional meaning to Shari’s lifelong mental health journey.

NAMI will miss this fierce advocate and long-time supporter, and we will be forever grateful for her contributions to the mental health community.

“I remember Trudy fondly as a friend, family member, and colleague in the struggle for improved care and treatment for individuals living with mental illness. She served as a dedicated member of the Board of Directors of NAMI Rockland (then known as FAMILYA-AMI) and the Board of NAMI-NYS. Trudy helped to develop an educational program to create public understanding about mental illness.”

– Rena Finkelstein, President Emerita of NAMI Rockland

In lieu of flowers, Trudy’s family generously requested contributions to NAMI. If you choose to contribute, please indicate that your gift is in memory of Trudy Kornfein, so we can notify her family. To learn more about Trudy’s impactful life, please read her obituary.

NAMI HelpLine is available M-F, 10 a.m. – 10 p.m. ET. Call 800-950-6264,
text “helpline” to 62640, or chat online. In a crisis, call or text 988 (24/7).