Iris Cohen, 87, died in her home on Thursday, February 23, 2023 in Slingerlands, NY. Born on July 21, 1935 in New York City, she was the daughter of the late Abraham and Rose Forer Sidman.
Iris moved to Roxbury, MA as a young child, and later to Brookline, MA where she was a member of the Brookline High School class of 1953. She attended the University of Massachusetts, and later transferred to Boston University, graduating in 1957 with a Bachelor’s of Education.
While at UMASS, Iris met her future husband, and the love of her life, Robert S. Cohen. Iris joked that Bob was so taken with her after their first date in April, that he didn’t ask her for a second date until October, which she promptly accepted. Bob and Iris were married on November 27, 1958, and she soon relocated to Pittsfield, MA to be with Bob in his hometown. Iris found a job working as a 5th grade teacher at the Center School in Lenox, MA. She taught there for 3 years, and was very proud of her time in the classroom. When she became pregnant with her first child, Jeffrey in 1961, she tendered her resignation, as was expected during these years. As a parting gift, her students bought her a radio, and it remained on her kitchen counter for decades after. She would light up when she recalled its presentation, and would often joyfully discuss running into former students around the Berkshires.
When her youngest child, Ruth went to kindergarten, Iris decided to study for her real estate license examination, and reenter the workforce. In 1973, Iris began working at Isgood Realty in Pittsfield, and later worked at Evergreen Realty, also in Pittsfield. In 1997 Iris found her home away from home at Roberts and Associates in Lenox, MA. Working there until her retirement, Iris found joy and fellowship with her colleagues, some of whom became dear and trusted friends. Iris worked hard at her job, and was scrupulously honest in her business dealings. She was a tough negotiator, but also personable and warm and she cultivated lasting business relationships. She celebrated each client’s new home or sale with a gift and her clients came back to her time after time. She worked until well after her 80th birthday, when health related issues nudged her toward retirement.
In addition to her parents, Iris was predeceased by her loving husband of 64 years, Robert Cohen. Bob died only 10 weeks ago, and left her with a broken heart, from which she never recovered. Iris is survived by her three children; Jeffrey Cohen (Jackie Gaffney) of Slingerlands, NY, Andrew Cohen (Laurie) of San Francisco, CA and Ruth Cohen (Bob Thistle) of Lee, MA. Iris is also survived by her 7 grandchildren Hannah and Sarah Cohen, Devan (Ashleigh), Quinn and Carolyn Cohen, and John and Patricia Thistle. She is survived by her brother, Alan Sidman (Sharman) of Brooklyn, NY, and her sister-in-law and brother-in-law, Janet and Dusan Lysy of Fairport, NY, as well as her brother-in-law Stephen Cohen, also of Fairport, NY, and her dear friend and “cousin”, Elaine Epstein.
Iris loved family gatherings, whether she was the hostess or a guest. She took tremendous pride in her kids and grandkids, and would never miss any graduation, school play, pageant, ball game or dance performance. She loved to write poems to mark special occasions, and her signature sign off was a source of much gentle teasing and laughter, as she would rhyme her name “Iris” with the word “virus.” Needless to say, that sign off did change after the start of the pandemic.
Iris was creative and artistic, although she was sheepish about her abilities. She refinished pieces of antique furniture, including caning, and made many paintings which were hung in her home, and in the home of family members. She was an early practitioner of yoga in the 1970’s, and continued until just a few weeks before her death. She walked faithfully for decades, and was very proud of completing a 20 mile walk-a-thon in Boston to combat hunger. She did the “Walk for Hunger” ten times, and she tended to power walk the entire thing. Iris continued to walk as recently as just a few weeks ago.
Iris and Bob’s 64 year marriage was a source of tremendous pride. Watching their adoration for one another, especially in their final years, was profoundly moving. Iris will be remembered as a loving mother, grandmother, and a “second mother” to her beloved niece Janet “Shanie” Lysy. She will be dearly missed, and forever in our hearts. In lieu of flowers, please consider donating to Project Bread (the sponsor of the Walk for Hunger) at https://www.projectbread.org/the-walk-for-hunger or to the Pittsfield Public Schools where a need based scholarship fund will be established for a graduating senior from Pittsfield High School. Checks to the Pittsfield Public Schools should be sent directly to Flynn Dagnoli Funeral Home, 5 Elm Street, Pittsfield, MA. The funeral will be held on Sunday, February 26, at 1:30 at Congregation Knesset Israel, 16 Colt Road, Pittsfield.