My father, Robert E. “Bud” Cohn, died suddenly on November 10, 2012. He was 88.
Born in Springfield, MA, Dad served in the Army Air Forces during World War II, attended West Point, then came to Amherst with the assistance of the G.I. Bill. He attended Columbia Law, then joined the Hartford firm of Pelgrift, Dodd, Blumenfeld & Nair. He assisted Thomas Dodd (later a U.S. senator) in reparation cases following the Nuremberg trials, and also in representing a group of dissident Teamsters in an attempt to block Jimmy Hoffa’s thoroughly corrupt election to the union’s presidency. The latter case drew national attention, and my father—or at least, his tie—ended up on network television.
He lived in the Hartford area for the rest of his life, founding the law office Cohn & Birnbaum in 1976 and working there until his retirement in 1994. He was a trusted advisor to his clients and an esteemed mentor to the young lawyers in the firm. He served as chairman of the board of the Hartford Hebrew Home and Hospital and later in the same position at Hartford’s Mt. Sinai Hospital, where he helped engineer a merger with St. Francis Hospital.
Dad was a passionate skier, giving it up reluctantly only three years ago, at age 86. Late in life he became an avid golfer, spending as much time as he could with a tight-knit group of friends he’d met on the golf course. These men were some years his junior, but it only made sense that, as the ravages of age by some miracle seemed to pass him by, he should find company and common cause with younger people. He also enjoyed a good game of bridge (the game had at least partially funded his law-school education) and a day at the race track, where he would occasionally pick a winning horse. He was both an enthusiastic traveler and a skilled amateur painter, and he would combine these two avocations when he would transform snapshots from his trips into big, colorful, eye-filling canvases.
He always treasured his time at Amherst, both for the education he received and for the camaraderie he felt there. His best college buddy, the late Bill Sellew ’44, became his lifelong friend: for many summers, Bill and his family rented the house next door to ours in New London, CT. In the fall of 1972 Dad deposited me at Pratt dorm, and I blithely waltzed off to my new life. Only later did I learn that after he drove away, he had to pull off the road, his eyes welling with tears of sweet nostalgia.
My father’s stay on earth was long and happy. He is survived by my stepmother Sherry Banks-Cohn, truly the light of his life; my brothers Bill ’80 and Jon; my step-siblings Wendy Steiner ’82 and Brad Steiner ’86; an assortment of daughters- and sons-in-law; and eight amazing grandchildren: He adored them, and they adored him right back. He was having dinner with Sherry, his golf pals and their wives when he died, and he never knew what hit him. This is how he would have wanted to go: having a Tanqueray and a good meal with his good friends and his beloved wife and in full possession of his physical and mental faculties. But we all wish, every day of our lives, that he had waited just a little bit longer.
Fred Cohn ’76