"Mickey" Maxwell Cohen, born in Brooklyn’s Borough Park in New York, passed away in Beverly, Massachusetts on December 28, 2021. He was 94 years old.
As a youngster, Mickey developed an interest in wildlife. His mother admonished him for using her favorite pot to prepare an animal skeleton for a school project. The family still has the skeleton and the pot.
Mickey met Barbara, the love of his life, as summer camp counselors. Married for 69 years, they were best friends and shared many interests.
An educator, naturalist, environmentalist, civil rights activist and intellectual, Mickey was also expert in antique restoration, ornithology, marine life, and foraging wild foods.
After WWII, Mickey was an Army aircraft welder in Japan. As a favor to General and Mrs. Douglas MacArthur, he welded a custom-designed double cot. At the end of Mickey’s tour, MacArthur showed his gratitude by arranging a return flight home for Mickey, rather than a long troop ship voyage.
Upon discharge, Mickey became a passionate teacher of English, math, physics, and biology in the NYC school system. A National Science Foundation Institute on marine biology inspired his courses at Far Rockaway High School and his vision for Beach Channel High School’s concept of integrating oceanography into every subject. Mickey served as Assistant Principal and Chair of Science and Oceanography, was named National Association of Biology Teachers Outstanding Biology Teacher, NY State Biology Teacher of the Year, and won the NY State Marine Educators Presidential Award, Founders Award, Kinghan Service Award and Science Council of NYC Resnick Memorial Presidential Award. Later he taught at the New School for Social Research and Southampton College.
After retirement, Mickey led dozens of trips to the Galapagos Islands and East Africa. Leading hundreds of American Littoral Society field trips in NY and other Northeast beaches earned him and Barbara the Lifetime Achievement Award. Mickey lectured on global warming years before it became a household concern. He was a collector of Currier and Ives prints, and used them to create lectures on whaling, natural history and social issues. He was an antique radio buff and became fluent in Morse Code just for the challenge of learning a dying art.
After 60 years living on the shores of Jamaica Bay in Far Rockaway, Mickey and Barbara moved to Manhattan, blocks from the American Museum of Natural History, where he and Barbara became volunteers. Mickey often spoke of his first visit to the museum in the 1930s on a grade school field trip, when his teacher pointed out fossils embedded in the steps of the Grand Staircase. He later found great joy in introducing the Museum to his young sons, Andy and Brad.
Nobody was surprised when Mickey was named Docent of the Year for his volunteer interpretive work. He was especially proud when a close friend donated a seat with his name and Barbara’s on a plaque in the museum’s theater.
In 2020, Mickey and Barbara left New York City for Beverly, Massachusetts, to be close to family.
Mickey fulfilled a lifetime desire to support science and research. He continued that quest just yesterday, by donating his body to the Anatomical Gift Program at Harvard Medical School.
Mickey is survived by his wife of 69 years, Barbara, children Bradley and Andy (Gerri), and grandchildren Jackie and Jonathan.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that you consider a donation to the American Littoral Society, in Mickey’s memory. Click the following link to donate: www.littoralsociety.org/donate-general.html Please write “NE Chapter in Memory of Mickey Cohen” in the comments.
A virtual celebration of life, via ZOOM, will be scheduled.
1/3/2022 05:56:24 pm
In fond remembrance of our beloved Mickey Maxwell Cohen
1/3/2022 06:58:36 pm
Thank you for reaching out to me. I appreciate your message.
Miriam T Gross
1/3/2022 09:03:58 pm
Goodbye Mickey, May you rest in peace. So many fond memories - the trip to Tanzania, with Barbara, when our granddaughters were tentmates, and the Galapagos adventure when your grandson was your companion. I'm so glad I saw you and Barbara ,at Don Riepe's recent virtual Xmas party.
Joann Gerardi, Ph.D.
1/3/2022 10:25:38 pm
Mickey was my cousin-in-law and great friend! Besides high intelligence, he was, clearly, emotionally connected, warm and caring, a loving person.
1/3/2022 11:37:44 pm
Mickey and I worked together in AMNH’s Butterfly Vivarium once a week for about 4 years. He was a joy to be with and a great inspiration of how to interact with visitors and staff. I miss him terribly.
1/4/2022 01:59:36 am
Mickey, my father’s cousin and friend, was a giant to me. Truly a man of intelligence, strength, kindness and grace. Most of all I’m inspired by his sense of curiosity and his passion for life in all its forms, and above all his family. I’ll miss him dearly, and hope to pass on his spirit and zest for life to my daughter.
Luke O'Brien and Helaine Trock
1/4/2022 02:39:11 pm
Our deepest condolences to Barbara and her family.
Laura Schrager Fishman
1/4/2022 08:42:31 pm
My husband, George, and I so much enjoyed the Jamaica Bay nature walks. Mickey's knowledge was impressive and his enthusiasm was infectious. Plus he was my biology teacher at Far Rockaway HS, one of the first classes I took there. He made such a strong impression on me as a young student and contributed to my love of learning. Sincere condolences to Barbara and family.
1/5/2022 03:00:31 pm
Please let me know if there will be a special memorial for him in Brooklyn, his life's work should be valued and forever cherished.
1/5/2022 03:03:58 pm
At this point we are not aware of any memorial service in the NYC area. However, if one is planned, we will let everyone know via the Littoral Society website and social media.
1/6/2022 07:02:25 pm
Maxwell Cohen's marine biology class at Far Rockaway HS led me to study biology in college and to an environmental career afterward. His enthusiasm and caring were remarkable. Condolences to the family.
1/8/2022 06:03:14 pm
He was my inspiration to become an educator and to live by the sea. I've done both thanks to him. God Bless you Mr. Cohen. Beach Channel H.S. was a magical place to come to age in. Thank you for everything.
Donna M Luisi
1/27/2022 04:28:22 pm
Will miss Mickey. I learned so much from both iof you. My condolences.
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