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Flushing High Classes of 1963-1967


Yvonne Davis

In Memoriam
Yvonne Jeanne Davis Cohen
February 2, 1948 - May 12, 2006

Yvonne's constant commitment was always for "the kids" - her own two sons, the children she taught in her classes over the years, her nieces and nephews, and any and all children with whom she ever came into contact.  This was the essence of the woman who was the "teacher" who simply loved children.

Yvonne Jeanne Davis Cohen was born in Flushing (Queens), NY, and graduated from Flushing High School and Queens College, where she earned her Bachelor's Degree in 1967 and Master's Degree in 1969 in Early Childhood Education. She started college early, and earned her Master's Degree by the time she was 21 years old.  She also attended summer school in Montana while in graduate school, and studied in Flagstaff, Arizona as an undergraduate student.  She was married right after her college years.  She met her husband, Fred Cohen, at a Brooklyn Poly-AEPi fraternity party. 

Initially they lived in Flushing where she taught elementary school in the NYC Public School system.  After Seth was born in 1970, they moved to Huntington in 1971 to facilitate Fred's job change. Danny was born here in 1972. Yvonne started out organizing community children's playgroups where she met friends who asked her to start teaching religious school at Temple Beth El in 1972.  She began teaching children in Kindergarten, then first grade and settled into second grade for many years at Temple Beth El religious school.  She simultaneously taught at Huntington Jewish Center's Nursery School with the 4 year olds for the past 32 years. Initially, she started the program and was the only teacher. As the program grew, they added other age groups, teachers, and a school director.

She enjoyed leading her family and students on adventures, highlighted by creativity and exploration. She always brought new creative games and ideas to her nieces and nephews, and was totally devoted to her sons and all family members. Devoted to children - sons, family members, children in her classroom, and any child with whom she came into contact is the way family members described Yvonne. 

Her classroom was a limitless treasure trove of things for the children.  She always used items and transformed "junk" into amazing craft projects, especially for the Jewish holidays.  Her whole life revolved around her teaching --- always looking for items to be used or adapted for use in the regular classroom as well as the nursery school children in her care.  Whales, airplanes, and space ships --- these were some of the items that Yvonne was constantly creating from empty refrigerator delivery boxes for use in the classroom for"her kids."  She liked to keep learning, sharing, making the kids happy and always "learning in order to do for children." Yvonne thought "outside the box" and made sure that there were constant "multi-sensory experiences in 3-D and colors, not just viewed in black and white." 

Her mission for the kids was how to open up the Jewish World to them, promoting creativity in the 4-year olds in her classroom, and downplaying anything scary in Jewish religious history for children.  At the Purim Parade, Yvonne was always in costume. She also ran the Temple's Passover Seders for years (using various props emulating the plagues by including origami jumping frogs, bubble wrap, and flashing lights, among others, to keep their interest and learning experiences upbeat). Generous in sprit, giving from the heart, she created most her own child-related - and able to be made by children - jewelry.  It was all home made, as she had no desire for material wealth. For every holiday, she had a theme with which to match her jewelry, as well as an abundance of homemade teaching materials.

The Grinspoon-Steinhardt Jewish Educator Award, a national recognition among Jewish educators, was presented to her in Florida (in 2004).  For the first time, there was a new category, "for Outstanding Jewish Early Childhood Education," and it was presented to Yvonne.  Commemorating this locally, Huntington Jewish Center held a "Morning of Recognition" breakfast in her honor with all of her students participating in the program, including several now grown-up students who were among the speakers. She was a teacher and presenter at SAJES (Suffolk Association for Jewish Educational Services), at LITE (Long Island Temple Educators) Conferences, and attended several CAJE conferences (Conference on Alternatives in Jewish Education) - a national conference held at various colleges and universities all over the U.S., and was a member of the mentoring program via SAJES as a "Master Teacher."  She loved singing in Debbie Friedman's Chorale and Chorus groups at these conferences. In addition to teaching at the nursery school, she taught religious school and Sunday School at various temples, most recently at Huntington Jewish Center, Temple Beth El in Huntington, and Temple Chaverim in Plainview. 

Formerly she taught in Great Neck's Temple Emanuel, Massapequa's Temple Sinai, South Huntington Jewish Center, and Temple Beth Torah in Melville. In addition to her classes, she ran the summer day camp program at the Huntington Jewish Center for the past 22 years.

When she was younger, her brother Arthur claimed she was "25 going on 12," but with a positive attitude, that was defined by a total sense of curiosity, always looking for something new, looking in amazement at everything in nature. Her love for animals included a love of groundhogs, beavers, koalas, and penguins.  She thought nothing of racing out the street door of her classroom to stop traffic on Park Avenue to protect a family of geese trying to cross the street, while her assistants held back her students.  She would sprinkle seeds in the flower beds outside her door to grow pumpkins and other plants for the kids to watch grow, much to the gardener's dismay.  Born on Groundhog Day, she took the family to Punxsutawney, Pa., to see the groundhog come out and see or not see its shadow (the year that the movie "Groundhog Day" had come out) only to learn that the animal is nocturnal and wouldn't show his face (only his tush) during the daylight hours that the museum was open. She had even purchased audio tapes to play for the children groundhog sounds and groundhog stories.  In the past several years, she and her mother took a cruise ship from Australia, visiting Indonesia, various Pacific islands, Vietnam, Brunei, and Papua New Guinea. She took a cross-country train ride in Canada (from Montréal to Vancouver) with her mom and looked for beaver paraphernalia to purchase at every stop along the way.

Enormously sensitive, she never forgot a birthday and made the cards herself with glue and scissors, and always months ahead of time. It never mattered and had no relevance if others forgot her birthday. Her constant concern was for ALL her children and for all of her friends. When Seth moved to Arizona in 1992 to attend a doctoral program, Yvonne called daily with "Tell me something new?"  She made the same calls to her mom and brother Arthur, also living in Colorado.  She lived for every child; everything she did was for them.  She taught them to respect each other. Her educational belief was to teach the love of learning, creativity, and exploration, and to instill the importance of a strong value system in children. She believed content to be secondary, as children will assimilate the information on their own as they go searching for it. This was seen by her son, Seth, when he was visiting her classroom.  He was amazed at the sincerity of an apology between two 4-year-old students.

Family, friends, and colleagues gave her a surprise 58th birthday party at Temple Beth El on Feb. 4, 2006 with about 100 people in attendance, surprising considering that the party had been organized in less than 2 weeks, and had to be relocated due to its size. At this party, her son Danny surprised her with 1000 origami cranes, which he spent almost two years folding by hand. This symbol of good luck and hope is a shining example of the thoughtfulness she instilled in all those she touched.

Her only concern, starting from when she was first diagnosed with cancer 6 years ago, was about scaring the children if she lost her hair, how it would affect them, and how she would miss them during her absences.  The illness, surgeries, and treatments were not able to prevent her from doing anything. She succumbed to cancer, resisting using oxygen in front of the children to the end.  She worked daily until a week ago, and she was smiling in her hospital bed yesterday when friend/colleague Diane Berg reminded her that, "report cards are due next week."

Speaking at the funeral will be HJC Nursery School Director Susie Meisler and Cantor Carol Chesler, Temple Beth El friend, colleague and Principal Diane Berg and Cantor Sondra Sherry, and Temple Chaverim Religious School Director Debbye Brandell.

Her desire for cremation was honored.  A funeral service will be held at Temple Beth El of Huntington at 2:30pm on Sun. May 14; Ma'ariv services at 7:30pm at Temple Beth El for the reciting the Kaddish prayer. Family will be sitting Shiva at the Temple immediately following.  A subsequent Memorial Service commemorating her life will be held at the Huntington Jewish Center on May 21 (Sunday) at 2:30pm.

She was predeceased by her father Ralph Davis.  She is survived by husband of 38 years Fred F. Cohen, sons Dr. Seth Cohen of Tempe, Arizona, and Danny Cohen of Huntington; her mother Ruth Davis of Denver, Colorado, brother Arthur and his wife Liz Davis, nieces Amanda and Karly of Denver, sister-in-law and brother-in-law Ryna and Hal Lubow and nephews 1st Lt. Eric Lubow (Army National Guard) and Steven Lubow of Franklin Lakes, New Jersey, as well as by all her school children and friends that are her extended family.  The eulogy will be given by Huntington Jewish Center's Rabbi Kurshan, Temple Beth El's Rabbi Clopper and Rabbi Emeritus Shallot, and Rabbi Hecht of Temple Chaverim. 

She will greatly be missed.

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