January 16, 1931 – September 29, 2020
Harold Cohen – of Salem, MA and Boca Raton, FL, formerly of Swampscott and Nantucket, MA, entered into rest on Tuesday, September 29, 2020 surrounded by his family, at the age of 89. Beloved husband of the late Janice (Samuelson) Cohen. Devoted father of Jill & Tom Bloom of Hollywood, FL, Beth & Peter Shribman of Swampscott, MA, Linda & Steven Weinstein of Marblehead, MA, and Brian & Michele Cohen of Marblehead MA. Cherished grandfather of Jeremy & Sharlene Weber, Ross & Ari Weber, Cory Weber, Randy Weber, Danny & Laura Shribman, Nikki & Doug Lutin, Katie & Mark O’Shea, Samantha & Zach Weiss, Tim Weinstein, Karly Cohen, Jake Cohen, Jessica Cohen, and the late Charlie Madyson Weber. Treasured great-grandfather to Ava Weber, Tyler Weber, Harry Shribman, Benny Shribman, Lizzie Shribman, Kelsey Lutin, Jake Lutin, Nathan Weber and William O’Shea. The loving brother of Gertrude Gilman, the late James Cohen and the late Melvin Cohen. Dear son of the late Samuel and Minnie (Goldstein) Cohen.
Harold was born on January 16, 1931 and grew up in Chelsea, MA. After graduating from Cushing Academy in 1948, he headed out west to attend the Business School at Indiana University. While at IU, Harold and his Pi Lambda Phi fraternity brothers rode in the first Little 500 bicycle race and set the pole position. Upon his graduation in 1952, he married his college sweetheart, Janice Samuelson, and whisked her off to Germany, where he served in the army for the next two years. When his tour was up, the young couple returned to New England, ultimately settling in Swampscott to raise their family. In 1956, along with his brother Melvin, Harold purchased Prospect Lumber on McGrath Highway in Somerville, MA and renamed it Somerville Lumber. The business grew into a chain of 10 stores throughout the 70s and 80s, reaching the pinnacle of its success in 1981 when the National Home Retailers Association named it the Home Center of the Year. Through the growth years, Harold ensured that Somerville Lumber retained a family business atmosphere, filled with company picnics and a visionary employee profit sharing and pension plan. In 1984, Harold and Melvin sold Somerville Lumber to Payless Cashways, and Harold remained involved in the business through Payless’ transition from private to public company until his retirement in 1993. Payless Cashways went out of business in 1997, taking the Somerville Lumber name with it, but to the countless employees and customers that worked and shopped there, the mention of the name still brings a wistful smile and a fond memory. When Somerville Lumber stores closed, Harold took on the role of a one-man employment agency, tirelessly working to help his former employees secure new jobs. Many of those employees can still be found posting musings and photos on the Somerville Lumber Facebook page. As recently as 2014 the employees were still organizing reunions, a testament to the lasting community impact of the Cohen brothers’ family business that has been gone almost as long as it existed.
Harold was a dedicated member of Temple Israel (later Congregation Shirat Hayam in Swampscott), where he served on the Board and was an active member of the temple Brotherhood. Harold was extraordinarily philanthropic; he donated generously to a wide variety of charitable causes, including Congregation Shirat Hayam, The MS society, MGH, Dana Farber, the Special Olympics, and Israel Bonds, who honored him in Boca Raton, Florida for his work on their behalf in 2015. He and his late wife Janice funded college scholarships for students in multiple communities close to their hearts, including Chelsea, Somerville, Swampscott and even as far as Whitwall, Tennessee, after a documentary about the Holocaust education project at the Whitwall Middle School inspired them to visit. Harold and Janice also set up a scholarship program for the families of former Somerville Lumber employees, which awarded grants through 2019.
Without question, Harold believed that his greatest achievement was his tight-knit, ever-growing family. He cherished time spent with them during holidays and family celebrations, and he loved nothing more than sitting on a cold, wet, bleacher seat, watching a child, grandchild or great-grandchild play with a ball or a puck. Due to safety regulations imposed by the coronavirus pandemic, burial was private.
In lieu of flowers, expressions of sympathy may be made in Harold’s memory to The Multiple Sclerosis Foundation, National Headquarters, 6520 N. Andrews Ave Fort Lauderdale, FL 33309-2132, https://msfocus.org/Donate.aspx or to The Mass General Fund, Mass General Development Office, 125 Nashua Street, Suite 540 Boston, MA 02114-1101, https://giving.massgeneral.org/mgh-fund/donate/.
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October 22, 2020
Jill, Beth, Linda and Brian--
My condolences on the passing of the wonderful Harold, a dear friend to Sippie and Sid and regular presence throughout my childhood. They/we shared numerous good times--I can hear his and Janice's voices and laughter clearly.
October 16, 2020
First I just want to express my condolences to the family. While I haven’t seen or spoken to Harold in quite a long time, my memories of him are strong and meaningful. He was always willing to make that call or do something that was truly helpful with no expectations of anion return. Whether it was a willingness to give his business to my ad agency or to get me into IU. So Harold, if I never thanked you for all those acts of kindness please know that they were so appreciated and continue to be. I think about you and Janice often and you are very here in my heart.
Ruth Shribman Goldman
October 14, 2020
To Beth and Peter, As you know we got to know Harold toward
the end of his life when Joe was playing cards with him in Florida
with Jimmy Goodman et al. Of course we knew of him through
your late mother, Norma Shribman. We were both saddened by his
passing and we wanted you to know that Joe was one of the many
people he touched saying "Harold was really a nice person".
Our condolences to you both for your loss.
Ruth Shribman Goldman and Joe Goldman
October 13, 2020
Dear Jill, Linda, Brian and Beth,
Our sympathies to each and all of you. We dearly miss both Janice and Harold. We find small reminders everywhere of happy memories and of their zest for life and friendship. More, their love and appreciation was ever evident..Jills regular visits to Dear Harold, Linda’s chocolate making, Brian's new business and birthday cards deluging Beth from the Nantucket Senior Center Bridge Players. We are blessed to have connected with Harold and Janice until the end. We will miss them and wish you the peace and happy memories they would want for you. Sincerely, Aileen Hart/ Paul Waldeck
October 13, 2020
a wonderful Mentor who was loved by all who knew him, Was a great help to me and my family. My Mother in Law helped to take care of his Mother, Massachusetts has lost a great friend
October 8, 2020
Harold and Janice were our Nantucket neighbors for years! We are very sorry to hear of his passing. Brian has kept in touch with him by phone the
last few years and was worried about not hearing from him this summer. Your dad was instrumental in helping us build our Nantucket home ensuring our young selves had expert guidance at the Somerville lumber store! Many times when your parents were on island I could find my Brian at your mothers lunch table, she made him the best lunches! And always loved hearing about all the grandchildren, they were so proud of all of them!
Please know we held Janice and Harold in our hearts. We are saddened at his passing but know is is happy to be with Janice.
Brian and Charlene Chadwick
October 7, 2020
Anyone who had the pleasure of knowing Harold Cohen, Im sure all have the same feeling,
A kind down to earth man, loved his family
Living in florida the last few years I had the pleasure to spend some time with him.
He welcomed me in his home dinner, football games , I loved talking to him.
He was an inspiration- A man who loved life to the fullest.
He will be missed
October 5, 2020
What a beautifully written obituary for a one of a kind man. I worked for Harold at Somerville Lumber (Somerville Store) He was a great guy and will never be forgotten.
So sorry for your families loss.
I actually met my husband when we both worked at Somerville Lumber. My husband and I were very fond of Harold.
Sincerely- Jodi & Dan Kinney
October 3, 2020
To my cousins-Jill,Beth,Linda and Brian- I will always miss the time growing up with you and your great Mother and Father and our grandparents. To all- BE HAPPY and BE HEALTHY! Love, Ken
Rita Siegal Amolsky
October 1, 2020
So sorry for your loss. I will always remember your parents and how good they were to Uncle Eli (my father). Remember the good times to keep his memory alive. Rita Amolsky