Ronald “Doc” Cohen of Charleston, SC passed away on Monday, June 1, 2022 in Charleston, SC. His funeral service will be held at the graveside Friday, June 3, 2022 in Emanu-El Cemetery (Maryville) at 11:00 a.m. Arrangements by J. Henry Stuhr, Inc. Downtown Chapel.
Doc was born in August 1926 in New York City, the only child of Louis and Marion Cohen (nee Cohen). He is survived by his wife, two sons, five grandchildren, two step sons and four step grandchildren.
Doc’s mother was from Eutawville, SC. He was raised in a Jewish family that was isolated in a pro-Nazi neighborhood in New York City in the 1930’s. During those years, his family sent him each summer to Eutawville, South Carolina, where he was among caring cousins, aunts and uncles. Upon his retirement he returned to the lowcountry to marry Blanche Cohen (nee Cohen), who survives him.
Doc was a licensed pharmacist, public health officer, exterminator, electrician, high school teacher, university instructor, Veteran of WW II, navy reservist, postman, and inventor. He was a fellow of the World Health Organization and the Royal Society for Public Health. Doc edited such diverse professional and scholarly publications as the New England Journal of Medicine, the Journal of Environmental Health and the New York State Sanitarian. He was also the occupational health editor for the Journal of the American Medical Association and was consulted frequently for his expertise in public health. In 1996, Doc was the recipient of the prestigious Sullivan Award “For Outstanding and Dedicated Service and Effective Contributions to the Advancement of Public Health in New Jersey”.
Doc held a PhD from New York University in Public Health Administration, two masters degrees in Public Health and in Pharmacy and a bachelor’s in pharmacy from Columbia University. He also studied chemical engineering at CCNY before entering military service. Doc was the first in his family to receive a college degree. He graduated first in his class in pharmacy school and taught organic chemistry at Columbia. He worked in public health departments in New York City, North Bergen County in New Jersey and - for most of his career- the Middlebrook Regional Health Commission in Bound Brook, NJ.
Doc saved lives. He succeeded in eliminating carbon monoxide poisoning in New York City tenements in the 1950’s by inventing an automatic shut off device for heaters and boilers, which was later licensed to the industry. He detected and helped address karposi sarcoma in the early stages of the AIDS epidemic. He worked tirelessly to reduce cancer incidence in Central New Jersey. In his work with the Centers for Disease Control, he helped address plague outbreaks in the United States. As his career advanced, he was often called to address major public health challenges, including mesothelioma outbreaks in Manville New Jersey, and cleaning up Manhattan Project waste in Bound Brook, NJ. Along the way, he also developed computerized environmental hazard response strategies for local public health authorities, and determined that the fouling of beaches in New Jersey resulted from medical waste disposal. He testified before Congress on environmental health issues at the invitation of Senator Millicent Fenwick and also served as part of a WHO asbestos task force in Israel, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union.
Doc was a part of the “Greatest Generation.” He enlisted in the Navy at age 16. During World War II he operated radar and sonar to support U.S. coastal defense. He detected U-234, the German U-boat that was carrying enriched uranium from Germany to Japan at the end of the war. He later served aboard the battleship U.S.S Wisconsin while in the reserves. He always kept abreast of developments affecting the U.S.S Wisconsin and the many who served aboard her. A patriot with a passion for fighting against injustice, Doc Cohen considered his service in WWII as one of his greatest life experiences and achievements.
Doc was friendly to all. He sought to address racism and prejudice throughout his long life. He was also a teacher’s teacher, who mentored many in a range of disciplines. The town of Middlesex NJ established a “Doc Cohen” day to recognize this many contributions to its people.
Doc traveled the world and loved to dance, play pinochle, and watch science fiction, especially his favorite “Star Trek”. In spite of his scientific skepticism, he admitted to seeing UFO’s in New Zealand. His love of travel, adventure, and history led him to Dostoyevsky’s home in Saint Petersburg and remote mountains in China, and he was always game for a log flume ride in a theme park. He would join in silly songs with his children, or recite the Vulcan “live long and prosper” blessing, which actor Leonard Nimoy based on a blessing performed by the high priests or “Cohens” of Israel. He loved a good bagel with lox, or New York deli sandwich. Whether you met him at a party or a hospital room, you were sure to be entertained by the tales of his adventures. When he was more agile, he might also invite you to dance.
He was a loving husband, father, grandfather, stepfather and step grandfather, friend, cousin, and parent to “Cody” his Boston Terrier. He was unforgettable to all those who befriended or loved him.
Doc battled numerous health issues in his final years but was always lifted by the love of his family and friends. No matter what our age, he would always tell us that we would always be his “boys” and “girls” and that we were all so “precious” to him.
A special thanks to his daughter and son, Sandra and Myron Perlitz for their love and care giving for the last several years. Also to their companions, Iris Sharper, Lakeisha Washington, Karen Givens and Elaine Blake.
In lieu of flowers, memorials in his name may be made to Because I am a Girl, a foundation established by his granddaughters to help women in Africa: Building 155 A&B, City of Knowledge, Clayton, Panama City, Panama or to the Nauticus Foundation which manages the U.S.S. Wisconsin in Virginia: 1 Waterside Drive, Norfolk, VA 23510.
We miss him deeply.