Lure of Catskills a strong one for longtime resident
The Caribbean’s got nothing on the Catskills. At least, not if you ask Terry Cohen.
Cohen, 90, moved to St. Croix last October to live with her grandson, Jonab, and his wife, who were expecting a child. But four months later, she was back.
“Why did I come back from St. Croix?” she asks. “Because there’s so much to do here.”
Cohen and her husband, Cecil, came to the Catskills in 1964 and bought a 270-acre parcel of land on Margaretville Mountain Road. After her husband passed away in 2006, Cohen ultimately decided that she didn’t want to stay in their house alone.
“My grandson said to me, ‘Grandma, you were always there for me and I’m here for you, and my home is your home,’” Cohen said. “So I got a big moving van and moved all my books and my files… it’s all in St. Croix.
“People think I didn’t like it and that’s why I came back,” she added. “I loved St. Croix. It is gorgeous. I fell in love with the mahogany trees. But I’ve been a serious volunteer for 40 years, and that’s what I love.”
Cohen said she spent much of her time in St. Croix following local happenings in the Catskill Mountain News.
“I was debating whether to start new relationships there, but then reading the Catskill Mountain News I realized I missed being here. I missed the four seasons. I came back and it was snowing, and I was happy I was home in my beautiful Delaware County with my wonderful family and friends. And it will be back to Jonab and his dear family on St. Croix for Christmas.”
Another thing Cohen missed, she said, was working with people. People like Tom Briggs from the Office of the Aging; John Riedl and Carol O’Beirne from the Greater Margaretville Chamber of Commerce; Donna Sanford, with whom Cohen did a lot of work for the Margaretville Memorial Hospital Auxiliary. People like Peter Molnar, of whom Cohen says, “If you asked me who my mentor is, he’s it.” People like “my dear friend Sue Ihlo,” who serves as treasurer of the Chamber.
Cohen also credits her family with making it possible for her to be so active in the community. “They’re so devoted and caring,” she said of her daughter, Debbie, and her son and daughter-in-law Dan and Kathy. “When you’re 90, you have to have a lot of stuff taken care of. One reason I’m so free is because the kids take care of everything.”
“It’s very important who you work with,” Cohen said. “I always worked with a lot of people; I believe in working with a team. Work as a team and you win all the time.”
“We were crackerjack organizers,” she added, remembering fondly when she and Sanford created the award-winning wellness project, on which they collaborated for 10 years. “I love meetings and big ideas where you have to use your brain.”
Those organizational skills served Cohen well in a number of volunteer capacities. In 2006, she received the Delaware County Outstanding Contribution Award, which recognizes persons who have made significant contributions toward improving the quality of life for others. In the 1970s, Cohen, along with close friends Harriet Smith, Marion Munro and Dawn Roadman, worked together to create and initiate important programs for the hospital, expand and improve the library and create the Erpf Center, for which Cohen served as the first secretary. She worked with the MMH Auxiliary, helping to organize the thrift store and flea market, and was instrumental in the organization and implementation of a wellness program. And, after a unanimous vote at the last meeting of the Auxiliary, President Sue Adams named Cohen the adviser to all wellness programs.
Looking forward, Cohen sees potentially major projects that could use some of the same skills.
“I want a cultural transformation shift that old age is a vital and vibrant part of the life cycle filled with possibilities,” she said. “ I want to be a part of changing the culture; there’s not enough respect for old people.”
Cohen, a resident of Kirkside in Roxbury, says that she thinks that one thing that would help the local economy would be the availability of model facilities like Kirkside, and the establishment of Delaware County as a destination for retirement.
“There should be vital, interesting people who are out on Sunday morning doing all sorts of interesting things, like churchgoing, gardening, sports and visual and performing arts,” she said.
That potential, paired with the pending revival of a wellness committee, creates the very real possibility that Cohen’s hope could become a reality. And, given her experiences, she might be just the one to get the ball rolling.
“To me, this is fun,” she said. “It’s a game. It’s why I didn’t sit in a rocking chair in St. Croix: I’m doing something I’m excited about.”