Longtime Litchfield, Ill., resident and businesswoman, my mother, Anita Joy Hess Cohen, succumbed to complications from Alzheimer’s disease and passed away in her sleep on Oct. 30 in Naples, Fla., her home for the last four-and-a-half years of her life. She was 94.
As co-owner for more than 40 years of the popular clothing emporiums Sidney’s Women’s Wear and Sidney’s Tot and Teen, she and my dad, the late Sidney Cohen, combed the apparel markets of Chicago, New York and Dallas to bring area women the latest fashions.
Anita commanded the Women’s Wear sales floor with a strong but warm personality she used to dole out a forthright, expert counsel that was sought by hundreds of Litchfield teen and adult women. She helped keep them dressed in clothing and accessories, be they serious, practical, whimsical, businesslike, flashy or modest, that complemented their looks, fit their personalities and added flair to their wardrobes. The Cohens retired and sold the business in the early 1990s but continued to live in the small, central Illinois town they had grown to love.
Anita Hess was born in Aberdeen, S.D., on April 20, 1923, and moved to Litchfield when she was nine years old with her parents Mel and Lillian Hess and younger sister Rhoda. Mel and Lil founded Hess Style Shop downtown, which became Sidney’s when the elders moved to Florida, and the Cohens took over the business. After attending Litchfield public schools, Anita graduated from the University of Illinois with a B.A. in sociology. In her senior year she met Sidney, who was back on campus after serving as a decorated naval officer in World War II. They married in October 1946 and were together 57 years, until my dad passed away in 2003.
A lover of games and competition, an avid golfer and bridge player, Anita also loved the peace of walking around Litchfield. At some point she began picking up aluminum cans as she walked, and to many in town she was known as “the can lady.”
She was an accomplished gardener who lit up her yard with flowers and gloried in yard work and gardening through her 80s. In fact, many of the perennial plants that bloom in our yard here in Chicago came from starts that grew in Anita’s yard.
At age 89 Anita decided she didn’t want to endure any more of cold Illinois winters and moved to the same Florida senior living community where her sister and brother-in-law lived and she
could walk all year long. And walk she did. Nearly everyone on the comely Aston Gardens campus recognized her as the one who was always out walking. Sometimes she would get confused about where she was, but the friendly folks who drove the intra-community resident-transport carts would pick her up, ride her around for a while, then take her back to her apartment.
Besides me, she is survived by her daughter-in-law my wife Sandi Wisenberg of Chicago, her sister and brother-in-law Rhoda and Harold Chukerman from Naples, Fla., and two grandchildren, Rachel Wiggins and Joshua Cohen, and grandson-in-law Damion Wiggins, all of Indianapolis.
Like my dad, Mom donated her body to science, which will be overseen by the Anatomical Board of the State of Florida, the institution that preserves bodies for medical education and research programs.