Gilbert Cohen, 86, of Helmetta, New Jersey, a librarian at the John Cotton Dana Library at Rutgers University–Newark for 40 years before retiring, passed away on April 6, 2015, after a long illness.
Services were held at Mt. Sinai Memorial Chapels of East Brunswick on April 9.
In addition to his wife of nearly 61 years, Shirley Ann Williams Cohen, he is survived by two daughters, Cindy Paul, a member of Rutgers’ Department of University Communications and Marketing, and her husband, Peter Paul, and Susan Chanin, and her husband, Alec Chanin; four grandsons, Ross Chanin, and his wife, Nicole Cadman Chanin; Jonathan Chanin, Jacob Paul, and Alex Paul; a brother, Joseph Cohen, and his wife, Sandy Cohen; a niece, Denise Cohen, and other extended family.
Cohen was one of four Rutgers alumni in his family. His daughters, Susan and Cindy, and Cindy’s husband, Peter, also attended Rutgers. His grandsons, Jacob and Alex, are now juniors at Rutgers University–New Brunswick, Jacob in the School of Arts and Sciences, Alex in the School of Engineering.
The second of three brothers, Cohen was born in the Bronx and grew up in Far Rockaway, Queens, New York. Delighted by books from an early age, he turned his childhood joy into a life's passion and 50-year career. After earning a B.A. in English from Queens College and a Master's of Library Science from Rutgers University, Cohen worked first for the Newark Public Library, and then the John Cotton Dana Library at Rutgers University–Newark. In retirement, he worked part-time at the East Brunswick Public Library.
With many libraries perpetually facing tight budgets, Cohen would often say, "If you can't give 'em books, give 'em service," a motto embraced by the many young librarians he mentored and who considered him a "shining example" of what an academic reference librarian should be.
Service was a hallmark of Cohen’s meaningful life. A former Springfield resident, he had been a member and president of the Springfield Free Public Library Board of Trustees and the Springfield Zoning Board. He was active in Democratic committees locally and nationally and served as a member of his condominium association in Helmetta and on numerous professional committees.
For many years, it was Cohen’s voice you heard if you called "Reading for the Blind" to listen to the New York Times Book Review’s audio feed. He gave freely to help family, friends, colleagues, and his community.
Cohen was a consummate librarian because, essentially, he was interested in just about everything and everybody. His own, well-curated personal library that lined both walls of his garage was filled with books on just about any topic.
Also a writer, Cohen belonged to writing and poetry groups and his poems commemorating family events were cherished. One of his daughters, Susan Chanin, became a social worker and the other, Cindy Paul, a writer—carrying forward to the next generation two of his great passions: concern for those in need and love of language. He embodied the best of humanity: decency, inquisitiveness, fortitude, generosity, and an endless ability to delight in others.
He also could also whip up a mean chopped liver or peppers and onions over pasta.
In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the John Cotton Dana Library at Rutgers–Newark in care of the Rutgers University Foundation, Winants Hall, 7 College Avenue, New Brunswick, NJ 08901.
Submitted by John Cotton Dana Library