James’ Brand New Blog

Phyllis Cohen (1929-2012)

- July 23rd, 2012

MuseumLondon-PhyllisCohen

Phyllis Cohen, photography courtesy of http://oaag.org

My thoughts & prayers are with the family of Phyllis Cohen, a great Londoner who died on Sunday.

Right now, I am seeing Phyllis in the middle of a crowded space at Museum London, happy & energized to see all of us sharing the experience of life & art. Her husband, Alan, & I met through the London Heritage Council & then I met Phyllis who encouraged the planning for the council. She had many visions for London & when we visited the Cohens’ home, it was a chance to share those ideas in a vital & beautiful setting. We had been thinking of her on Saturday night as we drove a friend home along Sherwood Ave., passing the house where the Cohens had lived in the 1960s and 1970s before moving to another house nearer Gibbons Park. She hosted some terrific parties in her art-filled home. She and Alan were a true team.

She was a champion of the arts & a better London . . . she would also fight even more fiercely for a good cause if someone she loved was at the centre of it. We had a cheerful chat when Phyllis talked about finding something about the new AGO I had written. The JBNBlog entry was v. positive & filled with admiration . . . helming the AGO is Matthew Teitelbaum, a colleague of mine from Museum London’s forerunner 30 years ago & Phyllis’s son-in-law. Matthew had been unfairly under attack at one point & Phyllis, looking through Google (I guess) for ammunition to return fire, had come across my blog. She had been cheered to read my new AGO rave & its memories of Matthew & we talked about the  importance of it & the arts in general.

The AGO, of course, flourishes as a vindication of such ideas.

There were many other remarkable accomplishments in Phyllis’s life. She gave so much to London, and it was a privilege to know her. You will be amazed to read about her life of service in the Free Press obituary  here:

 

COHEN, Phyllis – 1929-2012 Phyllis Cohen died Sunday July 22, leaving a legacy of three incredible daughters and son-in-laws; Sari, Deborah and Alan, Susan and Matthew, five grandchildren, Benjamin, Rachel, Rebecca, Max and Elijah, and husband Alan, who was her full partner in life and in living. Born in Brooklyn, New York, Phyllis got her undergraduate teacher’s BA certificate there, met Alan and moved to London Ontario in 1951. She got her MA in Education at Western in 1981. The family came ahead of everything and that everything was a LOT. She was always there for Alan and the girls. Racing home from meetings to prepare dinner, arranging birthday parties and cat-shaped cakes, ALWAYS putting the family first. She made parenting and keeping home a place of love, nurturing and stimulative learning her ever present top priority. But behind the family, what a life for this exceptional woman. Phyllis had an unbelievable breadth and depth of involvement. She was an active partner in Young Canada, the well known children’s clothing and toy operations which was sold in 1987. Phyllis was a partner with Alan in Canadian Social Analysts Limited handling all the business and family finances and assisting in many consultations in the not-for profit sector in Canada, Eastern Europe and Central Asia including Russia, Kazakhstan and Slovakia. Her extensive community involvement in the not-for-profit, arts and health care sectors including: Advisory Committee, Faculty of Visual Arts, University of Western Ontario (1994- to present), immediate past president Museum London and instigator of the “Cohen Exploration Project” at the Fine Arts Department at UWO. Phyllis was Board Member, CCAC, Founding Executive Board Member Ontario Association of CCAC’s, Board of Directors, Madame Vanier Children’s Services, Founding President Volunteer Bureau of London, Board of Directors United Way of Greater London, Senator, UWO, Board of Directors Thames Valley District Health Council, St. Joseph’s Health Care Foundation, plus active participation in many more organizations and activities. Arts transformed Phyllis’s world and with the assistance of Matthew Teitelbaum and a host of artists and professionals she became an art collector with a constantly expanding knowledge of how to better understand the challenges inherent in the world of art and ideas. Special thanks to the great team at CCAC London and in particular to Pauline and PJ. Funeral Service will be held at the LOGAN FUNERAL HOME (371 Dundas Street, London, ON) on Tuesday July 24, 2012 at 11:00 a.m. Interment in Restmount Cemetery. Reception to follow. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to Museum London or the the Fine Arts Department at UWO. Online condolences can be expressed at www.loganfh.ca A tree will be planted, by the Logan Funeral Home, as a living memorial to Phyllis Cohen.

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