Cohen loved family, music, art


April 8, 2021

Rosalie Cohen and great-granddaughter Garland Bishop.

Rosalie Cohen died March 9 at her home outside of Philadelphia. She was 95 and had suffered a series of strokes, said her son Gershon Cohen.

Cohen lived in Haines from 2002-2007 to be near her family, especially her granddaughter Sarah Bishop. "For my mother life was all about family," Gershon said.

A few years after her husband died, Cohen moved from California to Haines. "On her seventy-seventh birthday, Mom and I took off for Alaska in a 24-foot U-Haul van with all of her belongings, and a chocolate cake on the dashboard," Gershon said. An artist who loved classical music, she brought her baby grand piano. Cohen was no stranger to Haines, having visited more than 20 times.

She lived in the Senior Village, lunched at the Senior Center, patronized the library, supported KHNS, enjoyed Haines Arts Council concerts, and marveled at the natural beauty, clean air and water, and safety here. "For someone who had been raised in an urban world moving to Haines was quite a shift but she loved it," Gershon said.

"Rosalie was so welcoming and warm. She made me feel like I was important," said friend Kathy Holmes. Cohen became like a second mother to her and a surrogate grandmother to her daughter. "She treated us like family."

Once her granddaughter was in college, Cohen headed back to Philadelphia to be close to her older sister Norma. Her piano remains in Haines and was used in the Presbyterian Church for several years.

Rosalie Staroff Cohen was born March 27, 1925 in Philadelphia to dressmaker Sarah and tailor Solomon Staroff, Ukranian and Polish immigrants.

After graduating from West Philadelphia High School she took a wartime job as a keypunch operator. She met Leonard Cohen at work, a mathematician who was part of a team breaking German codes. They married in 1950 at Temple Beth Sinai in Philadelphia. She became a homemaker after her two sons were born.

In 1969, the Cohens moved to Southern California. "She was very courageous in her own way; it was a huge decision and sacrifice considering she left everything she knew and her whole family behind," Gershon said.

Cohen enrolled in Orange Coast College and earned an art degree. She painted and made ceramics and jewelry.

She was a lifelong member of Hadassah, an American Jewish women's volunteer organization, and enjoyed gardening, reading, playing Mahjong, and people.

One key to her longevity may be her joy of life. Her deep belly laugh was frequent and infectious. "Mom not only loved to laugh, but she could laugh at herself, " her son said.

"Rosalie was a lovely person. She made it easy for others to like her," said friend Deborah Vogt.

Cohen is survived by her sister Norma, sons Gershon and Bob; granddaughter Sarah Bishop and grandsons Jesse, Matthew and Corey Cohen; nieces Marcia, Sandy and Andrea Gever, and seven great-grandchildren. She was buried next to her husband Leonard in Philadelphia.

Donations in Rosalie Cohen's memory may be made to KHNS, at P.O. Box 1109 or at


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