Doreen Koenig and her husband, Keith, were among the more than 300 pilgrims who followed the steps of Pope Benedict XVI during his three-day visit to Cuba in 2012. They were the only ones, however, who could say they were responsible for the pontiff getting a good night’s sleep.
They donated two memory foam mattresses from their City Furniture stores for Benedict to sleep on during his visit. Keith Koenig is the CEO of City Furniture.
“In the place where he was going to stay, they only had cots. Pope Benedict was elderly — the mattresses were a necessity,’’ said Vivian Mannerud, president of Airline Brokers, the firm that organized the trip.
Doreen Koenig, 62, died Friday at Holy Cross Hospital in Fort Lauderdale. She battled breast cancer for 2 1/2 years.
She and her husband made an impact not only on the pope, but on a long list of charities throughout South Florida, from museums to seminaries to a children’s shelter to the arts and to Holy Cross Hospital itself — Doreen led the campaign to raise millions for the Dorothy Mangurian Comprehensive Women's Center at the hospital. As part of her fundraising, Koenig created “The Girlfriend’s Club,” a group of 200 women who each donated $5,000 to the center, the Sun Sentinel reported.
Koenig and her husband also donated mattresses to hospitals in Nicaragua and helped raise money to build a school at St. Gregory Catholic Church in Plantation, where the funeral Mass will be held Tuesday.
“[Keith and Doreen] have been a real team, you can tell that they really loved each other,” Miami Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski said Sunday. “They were both extremely generous not only to the church, but to the community.’’
The Koenigs have supported many local charities, including Covenant House Florida, which serves homeless and at-risk youth; the Broward Unit of the American Cancer Society; and the Philharmonic Orchestra of Florida. They also made major contributions to the Museum of Discovery and Science in Fort Lauderdale.
"Their donations exceeded a million dollars through the years," the museum's president and CEO Kim Cavendish told the Sun Sentinel. "When their children were young they were bringing them here all the time. So they have always been involved and the museum has been part of their family life.’’
The family has always been a big part of City Furniture’s history. Keith Koenig’s older brother, Kevin, opened a Waterbed City on the corner of Commercial Boulevard and Dixie Highway in Fort Lauderdale in 1971. Keith soon joined the business along with three friends. By 1994, the waterbed business was faltering and they converted the stores into City Furniture. Today, City Furniture has 41 stores in Florida, including Ashley Home Stores, and had sales last year of around $300 million.
The Koenigs believed strongly in giving back to the community, Wenski and others said.
“Both Keith and Doreen were good people. And when you say that, there isn’t a whole lot of other things you can say. They gave because they were blessed, and they were blessed because they gave.’’
Added Mannerud, the organizer of the papal visit to Cuba: “You know how some people boast about all the charities that they help? They didn’t. [Doreen and Keith] were just very humble and did this from the heart.”
Former Archbishop of Miami John C. Favalora said Doreen was a woman of “great faith.”
“She was a sterling example for her family and friends in sharing the many gifts God had given her,” said Favalora, who will celebrate the funeral Mass on Tuesday. “The Catholic community and so many others will miss her smiling face and abundant good works. Now she goes to enjoy the promised rest and peace with her beloved Lord and Savior.”
In addition to her husband, Koenig is survived by daughter Daren Cronin, son Andrew Koenig, two grandchildren, her mother and her siblings.
Koenig’s wake will take place from 4 to 8 p.m. Monday at St. Gregory Catholic Church, 200 N. University Dr., Plantation. A Mass will be held at 10 a.m. Tuesday at the church, and followed by burial at Our Lady Queen of Heaven Cemetery in North Lauderdale.