Rosalee Cohen: 100
By Deb Silverthorn
Rosalee Cohen applied her trademark sense of humor and wit to her recent milestone birthday: “A century goes by in a hurry.”
Born in Dallas on Sept. 21, 1920, Cohen is the daughter of Goldie and Jacob Cohn, who had immigrated from the Ukraine and Poland, and sister to Bernice Kayman, all of blessed memory. Her father made womenswear, including a line called Rosalee’s Blouses. Because he always brought clothing home, it was only on the rare occasion that she and her mother would go to the Sanger-Harris department store, and it wasn’t until after she was married that she remembers shopping for herself.
Cohen was just 12 when she first met Cyril Cohen, falling in love “right then, before I knew anything about anything,” she said. “I knew I was going to marry him.” Where did she meet him?
Cyril went to military school and Rosalee, a Forest Avenue High School graduate, went on to study social work at Southern Methodist University and start a career at the Dallas County welfare office.
“While driving down Harwood Street, I saw Cyril on the road and we literally got out of our cars, embraced and we were married at the Melrose Hotel five months later,” she said. The two were married 58 years when he passed away in 2004.
The branches on the Cohen family tree grew to include her children Don Cohen, Lori (Howard Crohn) Droppo and Cindy (Gary)Timm; grandchildren Ben, Hanna, Jason (Kathleen) and Dr. Michael Cohen; David (Dr. Annalisa Post) and Michael (Beverly) Droppo; Laura (Dr. Michael) Greazer and Cayce (Melanie) Williams; and great-grandchildren Cara, Liev, Linnea and Olin Droppo; Elliott, Noah and Madeline Greazer and Chloe and Clayton Williams.
Cyril founded Allied Fabrics (he’d make and provide linens for Temple Emanu-El events) and the Cohen family traveled the country together, with mom and children exploring while he conducted business. Once he retired, the couple often volunteered at the former Golden Acres Jewish Home for the Aged and at Medical City.
Cohen grew up at Congregation Shearith Israel and has been a member at Temple Emanu-El for most of her adult life. She volunteered for more than 40 years on many committees, has been a beloved second set of hands to the catering staff, worked at the synagogue’s Judaic Treasures gift shop and was a docent to visitors.
“Our parents taught us to give and give. For Mom, it’s always been her time, and Dad gave tzedakah. Between them, we learned that giving was what we’re to do,” said Lori Droppo.
Cohen was president of Temple Emanu-El’s sisterhood and then served on the national board of directors of the Women of Reform Judaism, saying the organization’s social connections and its dedication to social justice matched her own interests.
“Rosalee is an honorable person who has worked tirelessly, all her life, giving to others,” said Celia Saunders, a past president of WRJ at Temple Emanu-El and Cohen’s longtime friend. “She’s a role model, and she’s a hoot. There’s no ‘typical old lady’ about her and she’ll put you in your place with her heart.”
Her WRJ sisters couldn’t let her special birthday pass without bells and whistles. They organized a drive-by, socially distanced party with the best of surprises: a visit by her children, who came from near and far.
“Mom can still tell you who dated who, who lived in what house,” said Droppo, who always counted on her mom to bake hamantaschen when she taught at Temple Emanu-El’s Early Childhood Education Center. “She’s a walking encyclopedia of Dallas’ Jewish community.”
Always an avid reader, Cohen is making her way through her bookshelves again. She enjoys watching “Family Feud” and anything else that is “even keel, good, clean fun.”
Rosalee sums up the lessons she’s learned and lived in her 10 decades. “You have to do what you can, give what you can and always appreciate what you have.”
One hundred candles couldn’t shine greater than her guidance. On to 101.