Obituary: Leonard Cohen

By Brian Biggane

SOUTH PALM BEACH — Leonard Cohen, a fixture in South Palm Beach since arriving from his native Newark 45 years ago, died after a brief illness on Dec. 7 at age 91.
Mr. Cohen attended Weequahic High School in South Newark and worked several jobs as a youngster, including at an icehouse in Neptune, New Jersey, moving 300-pound blocks of ice, and in produce lifting 100-pound bags of potatoes. While peddling greeting cards on the streets of Newark, he was hired by Jack Rothhauster of Rothhauster Radio and Appliance and within a year was managing the store.
9966147493?profile=RESIZE_180x180Soon afterward he borrowed money from relatives and opened a five-and-ten-cent store.
Subsequently hospitalized by a hit-and-run accident, he had the idea while recuperating of putting goods he was selling in the store into supermarkets, ultimately growing that business to the point where it served 4,000 stores.
Considering retirement, he opted instead to launch a potpourri business, which also became a success and which he ultimately sold to his son-in-law. Upon moving to South Palm Beach following retirement in 1976 he got bored and decided to take courses in real estate. He soon became one of the most successful salesmen in Palm Beach County, concentrating mainly on his own South Palm Beach market. One of Mr. Cohen’s transactions involved an apartment in his own building he sold to Mark Harris, who had been an emergency responder at the 9/11 tragedy in New York City. Getting to know Harris inspired Mr. Cohen to increase his involvement in helping as many families of first responders from that episode as possible.
Of Harris, Mr. Cohen said last year, “He didn’t have any parents down here so we became his parents.” Harris would die in his 50s.
Another of his activities in South Palm Beach was hosting ice cream socials. For about 20 years he would provide ice cream in an attempt to bring residents of the community closer. Even in his final years fellow residents would refer to him as “the ice cream man.”
In keeping with Cohen’s tradition of ice cream socials, the town of South Palm Beach is planning to host a Lenny Cohen Memorial Ice Cream Social in the parking lot behind Town Hall at 2 p.m. on Jan. 2. The goodies will be donated by The Ice Cream Club in Manalapan, Cohen’s favorite spot.
The South Palm Beach Town Council devoted the first five minutes of its meeting Dec. 14 to remembering Lenny Cohen.
“I can’t do a moment of silence. I would rather just talk about him a little because in my estimation Lenny Cohen was South Palm Beach,’’ Mayor Bonnie Fischer said.
“He used to send me emails, mostly blond jokes, but he also gave me encouragement being mayor,’’ she said. “He had a warm and open heart. Let’s honor his memory.’’
Vice Mayor Robert Gottlieb said, “Len will always be the big dipper. … We can see him in the constellations, too.’’
Mr. Cohen also became involved in charities and purchased teddy bears for countless children who were in hospitals, battling life-threatening illnesses. A photo in a June 2021 profile in The Coastal Star portrayed him clutching a teddy bear on the patio of his beachside residence.
Mr. Cohen was most devoted, however, to his wife of 73 years, Florence. He became her caretaker in their final years together.
“He hovered over her and performed every activity one could do,” said daughter Linda. “He loved to cook and loved to cook for her.
“He was my mother’s soulmate. They were one. After 73 years they were tied at the hip. Literally. He never let her out of his sight.”
Mr. Cohen is survived by his wife and daughter, by a son, Jeffrey, as well as three grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

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