Cohn enjoying ‘platinum’ years

Published 11:57 pm Friday, June 12, 2009

Editor’s note: This is a series about local men, who were children of the Great Depression, tempered by World War II and returned to their communities.

Seymour Cohn did not think he would live this long.

The 94-year-old grew up in Atlanta, working for a wholesale dress manufacturer and then for a stationery and school supply business. After seven years, Cohn resigned and enlisted in the Army Air Corps.

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“World War II was on and I knew Uncle Sam was going to get me anyway. I was sent to Craig Field and assigned to the 92nd School Squadron as clerk, records of planes,” he said.

He fell in love with Selma.

“Had a ball in Selma. Special Services was in charge of entertainment for the men at Craig. We had dances, parties and the chance to meet the pretty local girls and date them. The town welcomed us. We enjoyed the USO where Helen Talmadge and Paul Grist were great to us. He let me call basketball games at the Y during my time in Selma,” Cohn said.

He met his future wife in Selma after a Friday night at Temple Mishkan Israel. June Eagle picked up Cohn and his buddy Leon Goldstein at Carter’s Drugs and drove them back to Craig.

But his service to his country called and romance took a back burner. First came officers candidate school at Miami Beach, Fla., for 90 days. After that, the newly commissioned 2nd lieutenant was assigned to MacDill Air Base in Tampa, Fla.; then to Camp Kilmer in New Jersey — the last U.S. post before going overseas. But the military rescinded orders and Cohn wound up in Baton Rouge, La., as acting squadron commanding officer.

From Baton Rouge, he transferred to Constantine, North Africa During the next three years, Cohn saw duty at air bases in Sardinia, Corsica, Tunis and, finally, Pisa, Italy, where he was appointed executive officer.

During this time abroad, he corresponded with Louise Eagle and her daughter, June. After Cohn’s discharge, he returned for a visit to Selma, “just to see what it was like.” He and June began dating. They were married on April 26, 1946.

For a year the couple lived in Atlanta, then returned to Selma, where Cohn joined the Eagles family department store business. Later, the family bought a travel agency and liquidated the department store.

“We named it Eagle World Travel and we built that little business into a success,” Cohn says. “We loved it and we didn’t have to unpack coats in July.”

After 16 years, Cohn retired to work in the community. He still donates his time to community service and still finds the hours to play golf.

His service includes working at the Selma-Dallas County Public Library a couple of days a week at the front desk; working as a volunteer at Vaughan Regional Medical Center; serving Meals on Wheels each week and helping at the Selma Food Bank.

The awards for his community endeavors are many and include recognition from the Selma Kiwanis Club; Rotary Man of the Year; Selma Exchange Club; Salvation Army Recognition; Chairman United Appeal for one year; and from the State of Alabama Senior Citizen Volunteer of the Year.

Cohn calls these years his platinum ones. He still finds time to read, play bridge with friends and visit with his son Richard “Rick” Cohn, who is in advertising in Boston; and with grandson Zachary Cohn, also in the advertising business, but in New York.

The travels have slowed down. For a number of years, he and his wife traveled extensively. “Now, we enjoy being home, seeing our friends and being part of the community,” he said.