Something I’ve thought about extensively for a long period of time is that most people probably don’t know very much about their own family members. Who are/were they? What are/were their talents? How do/did they make a living?

At the untimely passing of our cousin David last week, I took on the dreaded task of spreading the news to the extended family, since I am the family historian with access to all the email addresses. I was determined to shine a light on this bright star who was gone too soon. His brother and sister-in-law made it easier with this telling obituary, which I circulated:

David Randall Cohen, age 61 passed away Saturday, October 6, 2018. He was born on February 27, 1957 to Gary and Ann Davis Cohen, and grew up in Scotch Plains, NJ. He was a star athlete in high school, with all-state honors in football. He studied cello from a young age, training at Juilliard Preparatory School, Mannes School of Music, and Chautauqua in New York, and subsequently studied at Indiana University obtaining a BFA and MFA in music (cello performance). He played cello in orchestras around the world, including Madrid, Barcelona, and Mexico City, where he met his wife Isabella, who was a violinist from Poland. He returned to the states and earned a doctorate in musical arts from the University of Miami, and also was second cellist for the Florida Philharmonic for many years. He later played cello for Broadway shows on tour, including Phantom of the Opera, Evita, and the Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber. Dr. Cohen is survived by his brother, Dr. Ronald A. Cohen and sister-in-law Kim Sandler Cohen of Gainesville; nephew, Brent David Cohen of Burlington, VT; and niece, Lauren Anne Cohen of Gainesville. 
A Graveside service was held on Tuesday, October 9, 2018 at 10:00 am at B'nai Israel Cemetery Gainesville with Rabbi David Kaiman officiating. Please visit his memorial page at www.williamsthomasfuneralhome.com. 

Our cousin Juliet, at age 105, replied: “What a tragedy!  Why didn’t we hear of his talent?  We heard of Charles Neidich [a living cousin who is a renowned clarinetist], but not of him.  At least I never did.”  

I knew, because my mother-in-law would feed me the family tree information, which she understood I craved. David was the son of my father-in-law’s youngest brother. While we attended a recital where Charles, a second cousin on my husband’s side, performed at Julliard, we saw David perform in his parents’ backyard. As if written with an indelible marker, those musical interludes by such talented cousins are etched in my mind. The point is to share these memories with others.

If all else fails, look no further than the funeral parlor’s guestbook online to learn just who your relatives were. One example is the following tribute by a colleague of David.

“October 10, 2018

I was surprised, and saddened to see David's
obituary in the Gainesville Sun today. I am
a violinist who played in trios, quartets and orchestras with David in South Florida, before my husband and I moved here to the
Gainesville area in the early 2000's.
David had a fine reputation both
personally and professionally. I also played often with his wife, Isabel in
different venues in South Florida. I am
so sorry I did not get to see him before
he passed, to talk about old times. My
sincere condolences to the family.

~ Kay Schaffer-Stedman,

Gainesville, Florida”

An email David’s brother Ron wrote gets more into the heart of their relationship: “Losing David took the winds out of my sails. As you know as kids we were very close, played sports together and all sorts of activities often together with my father (sports in particular). Later I always looked forward to when he was on tour and I could see him perform in the Boston area. We spent much time together over the past three years since he moved to Gainesville.”

I waited a few days before sending David’s brother Ron, and his wife Kim, the photograph below. David is seen smiling at our 1975 wedding. That’s the way I always want to remember this master of the cello. Rest in peace David. Rejoice as the angels serenade you now.

David R. Cohen June 15. 1975 at our wedding in West Orange, N.J. Shown with his hands obviously just waiting to play cello.

David R. Cohen June 15. 1975 at our wedding in West Orange, N.J. Shown with his hands obviously just waiting to play cello.