Born in Novagrudak, Belarus, in 1908, Morris Cohen was the youngest of four brothers and four sisters. By 1921 all but the eldest brother had immigrated to New York City. In New York, Morris attended several years of high school but never graduated.

Through most of the Depression years, Morris worked as a day laborer doing odd jobs, often with other family members. In the late 1930s and most of the 40s, he worked as a cutter in the garment industry, where he joined the International Ladies Garment Workers Union and became a staunch advocate for workers’ rights. In 1938, Morris met and married the girl of his dreams, Eve Meltzer, and they soon started a family: Judith Susan, born in 1943, and David Aaron, born in 1948. Also in 1948, Morris started a real-estate business in Harlem, Upper Manhattan, with a small loan from his father-in-law.

In the late 1950s, Morris took up woodworking to reduce stress that was causing severe headaches. Woodworking seemed to come naturally to him; it was almost as though his talent had been waiting for the right time to present itself. He began making custom picture frames and carving handmade wooden bowls. As his interest in woodworking progressed, so did his skill. In his mid-50s, he enrolled in art and woodworking classes at the New School for Social Research in Manhattan, studying under Jose de Creeft and Lorrie Goulet. He rapidly advanced to sculpting with a mallet and chisel.

Sculpting began as an avocation for Morris but soon became a driving passion. Although he did produce a few stone pieces, his primary medium was exotic wood – he once remarked that “stone was too cold”, and he needed “the warmth of wood”. His “workshop” was the smaller of two bedrooms in a 5th floor apartment in the east Bronx. This room was Morris and Eve’s bedroom; the resultant piles of wood shavings and sawdust became the bane of Eve’s existence. In 1964, the couple purchased a two-family home in the east Bronx – the prerequisite for their new home was an attached 2-car garage where Morris could set up a workshop. From that point on, he steadily reduced his business interests to afford more time for sculpting. Many of the sculptures he produced became treasured gifts to friends and relatives for anniversaries, births, and other special occasions.

In 1980, Morris and Eve retired to Delray Beach, Florida, where, once again, the primary requirement for the new home was an attached 2-car garage that would be suitable as a workshop.

Morris continued sculpting for as long as he could, but in the mid-1990s age-related macular degeneration of the retina, combined with arthritis in his hands, precluded further sculpting. His family became very concerned – what would Dad do now that he was robbed of the skills needed to pursue his passion? As the saying goes, “You can’t keep a good man down,” and Morris turned his energies to growing fruit trees in his backyard. As before, he gave the fruits of his labors to friends and relatives across the country; it was always a treat to receive a box of homegrown fruit in the mail from Morris and Eve.

Morris Cohen passed away in August 2000.  He died from the same characteristics that gave him 92 years of a high-quality and productive life – love and stubbornness.

You did good, Pop – rest in peace.