Benjamin J. Cohen

Date of Birth

December 21, 1943

Date of Death

December 5, 2020

Benjamin J. Cohen was born in New York City in 1943 and grew up in Verona, New Jersey, where his parents (Harry and Helen Cohen) owned a small store.  He attended the University of Chicago where he earned the BA and MA degrees in History and finished all but the dissertation in the field of early modern Europe. At Chicago he met Patricia Cline; the two married in 1969.  They lived in Berkeley while Pat earned her PhD there, and then moved to Santa Barbara in 1976, where Pat joined the History Department faculty at UCSB.

Ben first worked for two years in the national headquarters of Sambo’s Restaurants, and then he returned to schooling, this time in the computer science program at UCSB, where he earned a second bachelor’s degree.  He held jobs in tech support in the campus Computer Center (when all computing was mainframe) and then in the departments of Physics and Chemistry and the Institute for Theoretical Physics.  He worked for Raytheon in Massachusetts when the family relocated there for a sabbatical year for Pat, and in another of Pat’s sabbatical years in North Carolina, he joined the staff of the Literature Department at Duke University, a position that wonderfully combined his strong interests and training in the humanities with his computer skills. His last job was with Computer Sciences Corporation, a national IT service provider company whose Goleta employees were embedded at Santa Barbara Research Corporation.

Ben was diagnosed with early-onset Parkinson’s Disease in the late 1980s, and by 2000 he was ready for early retirement.  Throughout his career as well as after retirement, he was active in his lifelong interests and passions, including a love of serious bicycling, medieval gothic architecture, and folk guitar. He carried on an intensive and extensive literary correspondence with good friends and family, all of whom saved his letters and are sharing them now, bringing delight to his family.  He was a great father who enjoyed spending time with his sons well into adulthood, sharing his interests and activities with them and taking part in their accomplishments.

Ben died peacefully in Goleta on December 5; he was buried with his parents in northern New Jersey.  He leaves behind his loving wife and two sons, Jeremy (Malky) of Brooklyn NY and Daniel of Phoenix AZ, brother Matthew Cohen of Vermont and sister Enid Bayer of Palos Verdes; and four grandchildren, Isaac, Avigdor, Liba, and Pinchus.

We enthusiastically thank Assisted Hospice Care and particularly Dr. Robert Harbaugh, nurses Dirk Kop, Judy Darin, and Marta Montalvo, and bath-man Victor Segura.  Wonderful caregivers arrived in the last two years to aid Pat, who thanks Dan Butts and Danny Poe for their extraordinary skill and devotion.  Donations in Ben’s memory can be made to the Parkinson’s Association of Santa Barbara, PO Box 6254, Santa Barbara, CA 93160-6254.



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