Sharyn Maxine Cohen July 3, 1945 to June 15, 2020
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Sharyn Maxine Cohen passed away at the Reading Hospital in West Reading, Pennsylvania on June 15, 2020.
Sharyn was born at the Reading Hospital on July 3, 1945. Her parents, David and Ruth Goldser, began raising Sharyn on Hampden Boulevard, Reading, just blocks from where she has currently been living. Ruth’s parents also lived in the Hampden Boulevard home.
Dave had met Ruth in her parents’ Jewish-style Restaurant in downtown Reading, where young Sharyn would later become intrigued by cooking while standing by her grandfather’s knee in his restaurant’s kitchen.
Dave Goldser opened a sporting goods store in Reading, naming it “Shargolds,” based upon his daughter’s name, Sharyn Goldser. So many customers naturally addressed him as Dave Shargold. Young Sharyn would grow up as a tomboy trying out different sports equipment that Dave brought home.
During the summer of 1950 when Sharyn was turning five, she attended The Reading Jewish Community Center’s outdoor day camp, Camp Asodi. A framed seventy-year-old photo of that year’s camp group shows the front row with Sharyn on the left end and a kid named Bruce Cohen on the right end.
When Sharyn was seven, her brother Ron was born, and family dynamics changed.
The Goldser’s built a new home on Olive Street when Sharyn was in sixth grade, the same year that Dave adopted a Manchester Rat Terrier from the Humane Society. That shrewd puppy named Heidi lived a long-enough life that both of Sharyn and Bruce’s children, Seth and Jackie, knew and loved Heidi during her later years. That was possible only because Sharyn had been a child bride.
Both Sharyn and Bruce attended City of Reading schools, but were not attracted to each other, as she was a social butterfly and he was a bookworm. Bruce’s family belonged to Reform Congregation Oheb Sholom, “the Temple,” and Sharyn’s family belonged to Kesher Zion Synagogue, a conservative congregation, so Sharyn and Bruce were not in the same religious school class.
They had their first dance together at Barry Farber’s Bar Mitzvah party at the Abraham Lincoln Hotel, and six months later danced together again in Kesher Zion Synagogue’s social hall at the reception of her group Bat Mitvah with the other girls in her seventh-grade religious school class. Throughout the rest of their high school years, Sharyn and Bruce hung out in different social circles.
In the summer of 1966, both Sharyn and Bruce were in their college years working summer jobs in Reading. A mutual friend of Bruce and Sharyn, Jerry Sager, had taken her car shopping on a “first date.” They realized they were not right for each other because he was 6’ 7” and she was 5’ 1”. So Jerry suggested to Sharyn that she be the date of Bruce Cohen at his barbeque planned for the following Saturday, and that he, Jerry, would get someone else as his date. Sharyn agreed. After Jerry returned to his parents’ home, he called Bruce to tell him. Bruce was OK with having a date with Sharyn but totally unaware that he was hosting a barbeque!
The event that Saturday had wonderful food and was a great success. Bruce’s widowed father Sam Cohen, attended with the widow he was then dating, Sally Fromm. Together they were considered a hot couple in Reading’s Jewish community. Everyone at the barbeque was pleasantly surprised and thrilled when Sally and Sam announced their engagement to be married!
Bruce and Sharyn agreed at the end of that wonderful evening that since neither had plans for the following night, oh well, they might as well go out together again. And the rest is history.
In the following spring, Sharyn graduated from West Chester University with a degree in Elementary Education. Upon graduation, she accepted a position as an elementary school teacher with the Tredyffrin/Easttown school district near Paoli, Pennsylvania.
Sharyn taught third and fourth graders in an experimental team-teaching environment for one year, at the end of which Bruce graduated from Cornell and the happy couple was wed.
After their honeymoon, Bruce and Sharyn prepared for Bruce heading out solo to San Antonio, Texas for six weeks of US Air Force Airman Basic Training at Lackland Air Force Base. During Bruce’s absence, Sharyn polished her cooking skills that later became known as among the finest in the Reading Jewish community.
Upon return from Basic Training, Bruce was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Pennsylvania Air National Guard. The newlyweds then moved to Lubbock, Texas for fifty-three weeks of US Air Force Undergraduate Pilot Training. While Bruce was being trained to fly jets, Sharyn was active with the Officers’ Wives Club, decoupage, and cooking foods of many cuisines from around the world.
At the beginning of 1970, the Cohen’s returned to Reading and Bruce began working in his family’s ladies’ swimwear manufacturing and retailing businesses. Sharyn became active in the Jewish Community Center’s Ladies Auxiliary, and ultimately became its president. She also became active with the League of Women Voters and worked on Temple Oheb Sholom’s Social Action Committee she later co-chaired with Bob Ullman.
Beginning with her dog Heidi in sixth grade, Sharyn had a life-long love of pets, be they large or small. Those of you who knew her well got to know the dogs Heidi, Coco, Yankee Doodle (born on the Fourth of July), Daisy Belle, Lucy Belle, and Dillon, the cat Willow (the only surviving pet), the turtle (EVERYONE knows about the turtle who crawled the house for 37 years), a rabbit (that either Seth or Jackie won in a Camp Asodi raffle favoring the Cohen’s since only three other kids entered), Guinea pigs (Nutmeg, a boy, was the first, then the kids wanted a second, and Bruce insisted it damn well better be another male. Sharyn and the kids got a “certified” male from the pet store, and then there were nine). And so, our next guinea pig arrived – his name was Smokey.
Beginning in 1978, Sharyn and Bruce began a dozen years of preparing and serving a donated meal to the Temple’s Annual Goods and Service Auction, a four-hour, seven-course Japanese Dinner for Six that required guests to arrive in kimonos at the Cohen home. Seconds were available for every course, and sake flowed freely throughout the night. Seth and Jackie wore their karate outfits, and Seth learned to roll Sushi at a very young age. As that dinner gained fame at succeeding auctions, groups of bidders competed for the prize. In those days, Bruce bought the Asian ingredients in New York during business trips, and Sharyn purchased other ingredients locally and ran the kitchen for those dinners.
When Bruce served his terms as president of the Temple, Sharyn helped behind the scenes by advising on many Temple matters. She taught religious school students at the Temple and also filled in at Kesher Zion’s religious school. When Bruce was tapped to lead the Temple’s Rabbinical Search Committee in 1997-1998, Sharyn, though not a formal member of the committee, played a critical role in hosting many meetings of eighteen people at her home and warmly meeting and befriending Brian and Holly - the new Rabbi and his wife.
Boating on the Chesapeake started in 1976 and continued for eighteen years. It started with Bruce’s lifetime business partner and brother, Nic, who often made truly brilliant business decisions, but also got the bright idea to buy a boat. The first year’s boat was a starter boat, and the salesman who sold Nic that old wooden cruiser, the “Lazy Lady” said, “Some people are consumed by golf, tennis, or fishing. But others take up boating and enjoy working with all the boat’s equipment and the opportunity for gentle waves to rock them to sleep.” The following two boats, Constellation and then Constellation II, provided so many wonderful days for Sharyn, Bruce, and the family on the water. Since both those boats were docked in Annapolis, Maryland, within walking distance were the US Naval Academy, the Maryland state capital, sights and sounds in the harbor, shops, restaurants, and more. During all the boating seasons, except for fitting out in the spring and laying up at Thanksgiving, Nic alternated weekends with Sharyn and Bruce.
Sharyn always maintained a fully-stocked pantry and refrigerator on each of the boats, and was famous among boating neighbors for her hors d’oeuvres in each of the marinas where the current boat was home-docked. Sharyn loved to swim, so when our Golden Retriever, Yankee, mistakenly decided to jump overboard, Sharyn dove in for the rescue. Yankee, upon being grabbed by Sharyn, greeted her by pawing down the front of her swimsuit.
It was 1982 when many non-working spouses of professionals and business owners transferred their day-time homemaking energies to working at the offices and businesses of their spouses. The impetus for this change was a new federal tax law allowing the first $2,000 of income to be placed into one of the newly authorized savings plans, an IRA. Those transferees were well-educated with specialty work skills rusting away, so having a new excuse to go back to work was welcomed enthusiastically.
Sharyn began working at Astor Knitting Mills, Bruce’s family’s ladies swimwear manufacturing and retailing business. She began work in Astor’s office in the IT department (then known as Data Processing,) and was one of three people handling incoming phone calls. Over time, she upgraded to managing the company’s road sales force. In addition, she began selling swimwear in Astor’s Pennsylvania outlet stores in Reading, West Lawn, Allentown, and Lancaster. During trips to south Florida with Bruce, she’d visit Astor’s stores there.
After Astor ended nearly all operations in 2002, Sharyn took her finely-honed retail sales and customer service skills to Donecker’s in Ephrata, PA, a high-end department store.
She began her career there in the Jewels and Finery department, and became one of few Personal Shoppers who could sell in all departments of the store. She home-based at Donecker’s as head of the Mother-of-the-Bride Department, meaning she sometimes sold $2,000+ dresses and other times was Timekeeper Counting Knockdowns at the Bell as a mother and daughter wrestled on the floor over who was the wedding-attire decision maker. Sharyn doted on her mother’s of the brides; it gave her great satisfaction and joy to build relationships with each of her customers. She was so warm and so approachable – that her customers were drawn to her. In fact, one long-time out-of-town customer Sharyn picked and sent outfits to, a hand surgeon, even invited Sharyn and Bruce to a wedding in Scotland that got put off, but remained a friend throughout the following years.
When Donecker’s shut down in 2008, Sharyn and Bruce moved full speed into expanding the Personal Chef Businees the had started less than two years before, Pampered Palates. Well, what a ride it’s been. Bruce, who’s also been a commercial web site developer and commercial photographer since Astor wound down, built a web site for Pampered Palates with extensive search engine optimization that has pulled in clients needing packaged meals at home, high-end gourmet dinner parties or large events such as Bar/Bat Mitzvah receptions, including Kosher cuisine. Sharyn transformed Bruce into befriending clients and talking while working in clients’ kitchens.
So, both Chef Sharyn and Chef Bruce enjoyed meeting the clients they’ve worked for over the years, and several of those clients have become long-time friends after cooking for them ended.
The chefs developed a Tuscan Hands-on Cooking Class that is taught in a client’s home or venue with cooking facilities, with a minimum of ten and as many as eighteen participants in a class. Sharyn spun the class design so it works well for any social group or for a corporate team-building event. One client, who had previously been to Tuscany, enjoyed the Tuscan Class so much that after a couple years asked to repeat the class for his gang.
During the last few years with Sharyn’s illnesses keeping her home, Sharyn participated in planning events, but Bruce did the food shopping and work at client venues by himself.
Years before her illnesses restricted Sharyn’s mobility, she and Bruce participated extensively in the Temple’s annual Jewish Food Festival, the congregation’s major fund raiser. For seven years, the daring duo led one of two teams making Jewish-style brisket. Their three-day task was to assemble a sufficiently large team to help prep, cook, slice, and portion about five hundred fifty pounds of brisket in the Temple’s commercial kitchen that would eventually provide almost six hundred portions. The tail end of the process was to clean a large kitchen that had become a grease pit.
Sharyn and Bruce became aware that the Food Festival’s Falafel/Middle Eastern stand was not producing enough income, and volunteered to take over that project. They traveled from Reading to a Middle Eastern food wholesaler in Philadelphia they had used before for Pampered Palates’ events. From Fari, an Iranian who had long lived in the US and had become a citizen, they bought Food Festival ingredients including wonderful Kosher frozen falafel from Israel that Bruce would freshly prepare at the Food Festival Falafel Stand using Pampered Palates’ deep fryer. In her later years, Sharyn would sit at the end of the Falafel stand in her wheelchair. She didn’t want to miss a thing.
Sharyn’s health continued deteriorating due to numerous serious conditions, any one of which could have taken her down years ago. But she was a fighter, and even last week surprised one doctor whom she told three times, “I want treatment.” She just wouldn’t give up, come what may. She lost her final battle with one condition that couldn’t be treated because of another condition that blocked treatment of the first.
Sharyn was a loving spouse, a loving mother, a very good and caring friend to many, and Bruce’s best friend. May she rest in peace.