EULOGY for Pop Pop

We are all here today to celebrate the life, love, and accomplishments of an extraordinary man, a man of immense physical and mental strength. Whether you knew him as Jerome or Jerry, Dad or Pop Pop, you loved him, and he loved you. He brought a lot of love into this world, being the patriarch of a family with children and grandchildren to carry on his memory, his wisdom, his humor, and his genes. Thanks for the hairy back and receding hairline, Pop Pop! … In all seriousness though, all of his offspring can be eternally grateful for inheriting even a drop of his charming good looks, shining intellect, and (rarest of all) his unwavering moral strength and courage.

Pop Pop’s accomplishments were many, his interests were many, and his drive for success was singular and ever-present. Whether applying himself to academics, military service, the business world, being a husband, parenting, grand parenting, a game of tennis, a game of baseball, or a hand of pinochle, Pop Pop gave it his all. He always played to win, and (in my opinion) sought to draw out this quality from people close to him. On my dad’s first and last day of little league baseball, Pop Pop reacted to my dad striking out by calling out in exasperation, “What’d you do that for?!” I recall my brother and I encouraging this very same reaction in Pop Pop when learning the game of pinochle and leading “the wrong card.”

While Pop Pop’s distaste for failure was well-known, he could and would be supportive when it really mattered. He was a nurturer and a teacher, even if his students weren’t always receptive. He successfully taught my brother and me the wonderful game of pinochle that his father taught him. He taught all of his children much about life. For instance, he taught my Uncle David how to go to his room … He also sparked my dad’s dual passions of electronics and music.

Anybody that knew Pop Pop, knew of his love for music, specifically jazz music. Where Pop Pop went, jazz was likely to follow. He filled his home with jazz, his car with jazz, went to jazz concerts, took jazz cruises, was friends with the jazz piano player Gene Harris, and even opened a jazz club in Pittsburgh called Walt Harper’s Attic. He passed his love of jazz down to his children, and my dad passed it on to me and my brother. Thank you for the gift of music, Pop Pop. It’s both my love and my livelihood.

Despite the profound sadness that we all felt with Pop Pop’s passing, the passionate spark of his life was so bright as to keep penetrating that darkness. As if by plan, as I wrote that line, my Aunt Susan (Pop Pop’s only daughter) remarked that the one thing she would mention about him if she were able, would be the ever-present twinkle in his eye. I think that anyone who knew him can attest to that twinkle, that spark of exuberance that Pop Pop carried throughout his life.

Before Aunt Susan could even finish speaking about the twinkle in Pop Pop’s eye, Uncle David (Pop Pop’s youngest) cut her off joking about his tinkle. This is but an excerpt of the never-ending comedy routine that is life for Pop Pop’s children. The most mundane activity can trigger hysterics among my Dad, aunt, and uncle. The seemingly simple task for my dad of taking a picture of Uncle David took several minutes and several tears of laughter. My brother and I have been similarly afflicted with the “laughing to tears disease,” which has been passed down in the Cohen family, going back not only to Pop Pop, but at least as far back as his father, Grandpa Eddie, if not farther. A few nights ago, my Great Uncle Ira and Great Aunt Selma (Pop Pop’s sister) regaled us with hilarious stories about living with Pop Pop and his wife under Grandpa Eddie’s roof. Uncle David mentioned Grandpa Eddie’s habit of always starting a joke and getting so worked up with laughter that he couldn’t deliver the punch line.

One last thing I’d like to touch upon this morning is the magic that surrounded Pop Pop in his final days. For his sake, family bonds that had begun to fade over the years strengthened like never before. Pop Pop’s family came together in strength and solidarity out of mutual love for the head of our family. Pop Pop was able to witness this tribute to him and to the power of family as his final experience on the planet. Nurses who routinely deal in caring for people during their last days kept commenting on the unusually powerful display of love and warmth in Pop Pop’s room.

Love and warmth is what he gave to us, and love and warmth is what we can give the world in his memory. He lives on in each of our hearts. Rest in peace, Pop Pop. We love you.