Anita Joy Hess Cohen, 1923-2017

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The grandkids and greatgrandkids brought her much joy.

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.

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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.

dsc_0001.jpgA 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 IMG_1787perennial 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

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Mom loved to travel. Here she’s at a stop on a trip to the South Dakota homeland with two of her cousins.

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.

15 thoughts on “Anita Joy Hess Cohen, 1923-2017

  1. Hi Linc,
    What a great tribute to your mom’s life! It sounds like she mostly enjoyed a rich, long life. And then Alzeimer’s – well, we know what that means. From what I saw, you were a good son all the way through and she was lucky to have you navigate those last years after your dad died.

    How’s it going with you? I’ve been happily retired until a couple weeks ago, when I started back half-time at LERC. I didn’t initiate it. But a couple faculty people left (including the retirement of one Barbara Byrd, who was the lynchpin of LERC in Portland), and they asked if I would fill in while they’re short-staffed. It’s supposed to be 5 months. I’m going to try to hold to that.

    It was terrific seeing Jack and Valerie in May, and it looks like I’ll get to see them again soon, as they make their way south from Washington to San Francisco.

    Will you be out here anytime soon? Did you see that the Thorns (women’s soccer) won the national championship?

    It’s possible I’ll come back to Chicago for the Labor Notes conference in April. If so, I will of course be in touch in hopes to see you and Sandi.

    Hope you’re fine, despite so many reasons to be sad, angry, depressed, defiant, et al.
    It’d be great to see you.
    Give love to Sandi. And your kids.

    Lynn
    Ps. You probably know that the no-longer-little Lizzie gave birth to a bouncing baby boy in late July. It’s been great to see her as a mom, and to witness grandparenthood capture Sarah and David!

    From: a boomer retires
    Reply-To: a boomer retires
    Date: Thursday, November 2, 2017 at 11:15 AM
    To: Lynn Feekin
    Subject: [New post] Anita Joy Hess Cohen, 1923-2017

    Linc Cohen posted: ” 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.”

  2. If you had never written anything else in your life, this would be enough. It is full of love and light, as your Mom clearly was. Thank you for sharing her with all of us.

  3. Linc,

    Thank you for sharing such a beautifully written piece. It is nice to get to know a bit about one of the people who had so much to do with you becoming such a wonderful man and dear friend. All goes well with Andrea, me and both of our kids. We feel lucky and blessed. Wishing you, Sandi and all your loved ones well being.

    Bill Perkins

  4. Definitely a beautiful account of my grandmother. It’s funny as I have been telling stories and reminiscing I have realized I am a lot like her, who knew lol. Love you granny!!!

  5. First pictures we have seen of your Mother. You look a lot like her, no? It was so good to see both you and Sandy last week. Wish the circumstances were different, but your eulogy is wonderful.

  6. Dear Linc
    This is a beautiful homage to your mother. I always enjoyed hearing stories about her but your description of her on this post, so lovingly rendered, makes her all the more vivid. It seems she was a (gentle) force to be reckoned with. I especially love the “can lady” story.
    Linc, be well, take care and keep her in your heart.
    Warmly,
    Flo

  7. Dear Linc..and family. First .I’m so sorry about your mom. My friend ,Anita. I agree, if you never write another word this ” from the heart” Eulogy is one of the most amazing I’ve seen. Your Mom wasn’t just a customer or fellow resident of Litchfield to me. She became a great pal and trusted listener and supporter in our mutual love of politcs and concern for the human condition. We had some fairly in depth discussions and always agreed ! I remember especially after my Dad passed and my mother continued to winter in ft Myers..that your Dad. Anita my mom Charliene and I went down to a favorite .the Greek Plaka on ft Myers Beach. We all had some great visits. My mother passed just a couple weeks before Sid in January 2003. I am so grateful to have been able to spend a day in Naples in January 2016 on a trip back to Ft Myers Beach with your Mom and yourself. What a joy it was. I have to admit a little historical trivia as well . My parents and yours were long time business people in Litchfield…but our grandparents as well. I remember as. a kid ,Gram Napier and my mom telling me how great pals Charlie Napier ,my grandpa and Mel Hess were and remained so to the end of their days. .. I will never forget the friendship and counsel of Anita. And the many times we had a friendly beer on the porch…as well as her out in yard helping as I was involved in one of our many projects.. To this day I still have two plants,,,just two of many in which she always took great pride. Please accept my condolences for the loss of this great and gracious lady..God speed Anita . Travel on your journey in peace and joy.

  8. Linc,
    I’m so sorry to hear about your mom passing. I have so many wonderful memories of growing up in Litchfield with your parent’s store . I loved how you mom always made me feel special and pretty when we found a new outfit and during the fashion shows!! Remember the Sunday trips to Springfield?? I’ll share this article with my mother, Barbara Barenholtz . May your mom’s memory be a blessing. Thinking of you and your family during this difficult time.

  9. First job was at your parent’s clothing store in the bookkeeping dept. and enjoyed every single day of going to work. Grew up wearing clothes from both stores as well as clothed both of my children from their store. Such a loss of both of your parents.

  10. I remember bits and pieces.

    Neets was my aunt. Anita. Neets. My mom’s sister, my cousin Linc’s mom, and she was always great. To me, anyway. Always.

    She lived far away. 250 miles. 5 hours driving. Road Trip. Route 66. Hinsdale Oasis. Streid’s in Bloomington.

    She called my dad Charlie. Chukerman, Chuck, Charlie. His name is Harold.

    She listened carefully and she was interested in whatever I had to say. She laughed at my jokes and made light of my screw ups.

    She was there when I screwed up and I never felt judged. She may have disapproved, but it was without judgment.

    I remember the house, the living room … there was a cigarette cup, a lighter, and an ash tray within arms reach, regardless of where one sat. I made patterns of that couch for her to needlepoint into pillow covers. Susan and I still have those pillows. You can see the cigarette cups and the ash trays.

    I remember cartons of Chesterfields and a big glass apothecary jar with coupons. I think I remember that because I used to pilfer those cigarettes, thinking Neets wouldn’t know. It was 40 some years later that she let me know. She knew.

    I remember dialing 4 digit telephone numbers, and Roddy. I remember Roddy, and Ruth. I think there was a cornfield behind the house. I remember thinking it would be a good place to get kidnapped. That was the new house.

    The old house looked like a barn. Wait. It was shaped like a barn. I think the Brubakers lived across the street. And I remember the basement. Ping pong and beer, laundry and scary stairs.

    I remember the stores, thinking how cool it was that Neets & Sidney owned them, and how everybody knew them. I remember a stoplight.

    I remember Wanda…sort of. Just her name, really. I can’t picture her. And the Club. I remember going to the club. There was fishing. Bluegills I think. With Biff Granger.

    I remember Thanksgiving. Neets had a lot of ones. Place settings. Different plates, different glasses, each different, making the table a visual feast, although I didn’t call it that at the time.

    I remember that Neets never judged me. She was always safe. She always made it safe.

    I haven’t seen her much in the last few years, and what I did see wasn’t completely her, although there were flickers of Neets. Certain things would elicit a spark, a smile, a recognition… she’d beam for a second, and then it was gone.

    She got excited about everything. Anything. At some point, everything was new and everything was wondrous and everything was “Amazing.”

    “The sky is beautiful, isn’t it?”
    “It’s amazing.”
    “That bird…how cool.”
    “That’s amazing.”
    “Dinner is pretty good, eh?”
    “It’s amazing!”

    It’s not a surprise that everybody loved her.
    She was amazing.
    She’ll be missed.

  11. Hi Linc…Sorry to hear the news. She sounds like a great lady. Not unexpected to those who know you. Thank you for sharing this…rich

  12. Hi Linc- The ways you characterize your dear mother sound a lot like attributes the two of you share. I know you as a kind, family-oriented gentle soul, with a great sense of humor. The apple…

    We are so sorry for your and your familys’ loss. Alzheimers/Parkinsons are such awful illnesses so I choose to focus on my mother when she was vibrant, involved, accomplished, and my mom…sans this dreaded disease. The boys and I send our love and condolences to you and Sandi.

    Fondly,

    Rebecca, Adam, Max, and Ari Schnitzer

  13. Haven’t had time to check my email lately–so she survived Irma but then passed on. I’ll give you a call soon.much love,b.

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