SHIRLEY WILLIAMS COHEN, 88, SPEECH PATHOLOGIST
HELMETTA - SHIRLEY WILLIAMS COHEN, 88, formerly of Springfield, N.J., and Penn Yan, N.Y., died peacefully on August 12, 2019, after a long illness.
Born in Elmira, N.Y., and raised in Penn Yan, a small, beautiful town in the Finger Lakes, Shirley and her three brothers were children of the Great Depression. Despite growing up in poverty, Shirley's childhood was rich with an appreciation for the arts and education. Her mother played the organ and piano and loved opera, interests she passed on to Shirley. Books were always in the home, and a great aunt, a teacher, sponsored Shirley's college education at what is now SUNY Geneseo.
At college, she earned her teaching credential while studying music, leading the music committee of her sorority, and participating in many plays. She went on to earn her Master's degree in speech pathology at SUNY Buffalo. It was in the Buffalo Public Library where she met the love of her life, Gilbert Cohen, while the two were listening to classical music.
After marrying and moving to New Jersey, she taught in the Newark Public Schools before ultimately becoming the director of the Speech and Hearing Department at St. Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston, where she worked for 25 years, helping countless adults and children and mentoring many students. At St. Barnabas, she was a member of a highly regarded cranial-facial surgical team and she published research as a member of that team.
Shirley's greatest love was her family. She was the one who remembered all the birthdays and anniversaries and made sure all major family milestones were celebrated with great joy. For her entire life, she loved music, books, poetry, art, and birds. She was a devoted social justice advocate and volunteered with local Democratic groups.
Shirley was predeceased by her husband of 60 years, Gilbert Cohen, and by her brothers, twins Robert and Rodman Williams. She is survived by daughter Susan Chanin; daughter Cindy Paul and her husband Peter Paul; grandson Ross Chanin and his wife Nicole Cadman Chanin, and their daughter Adrian Chanin; grandsons Jonathan Chanin, Jacob Paul, and Alexander Paul; brother Lee Williams; sisters-in-law Sally Williams and Mary Lou Williams; brother-in-law Joseph Cohen; and two generations of nieces and nephews.
Family and friends may visit on Thursday, August 15th, from 12:00 to 2:00 PM, at The BRUNSWICK MEMORIAL HOME, 454 Cranbury Road, East Brunswick, where a funeral service will be held during that time. For directions to the funeral home, please see the "Services" page. All will be invited to join the family for a repast following the service, at a location to be announced. The family will also be receiving guests at their home on Thursday evening.
Burial will take place on Saturday, August 17th, at 11:00 AM, at Lake View Cemetery, 426 Court Street, Penn Yan, NY 14527.
In Shirley's memory, the family asks to consider donations to Oxfam, an international hunger relief organization at www.oxfam.org
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