NSNC President Larry Cohen Dies

Laurence D. "Larry" Cohen

Laurence D. “Larry” Cohen
Richard Messina/Hartford Courant 2008

Larry Cohen, NSNC 2012-14 president, died Monday, Aug. 27, 2012, of a heart attack in Florida. He was 64.

He had been elected May 6 by unanimous vote at the annual conference of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists, in Macon, Ga.

Laurence D. Cohen joined the NSNC in 1996 and had experience in government, public relations and teaching as well as journalism. Retired last year from a long career at the Hartford (Conn.) Courant, Cohen moved to Sanibel Island, Fla., where he continued to write for the Courant and other New England publications.

In 2011, Larry was appointed chair of the 2013 NSNC conference, to be in St. Petersburg, Fla.

He is survived by his wife of 41 years, Jan, and a sister. The family plans to hold a memorial celebration in a month, in Connecticut. Jan Cohen requests that memorial contributions be made to the NSNC Education Foundation.

Eric Heyl

Eric Heyl

Having been elected vice president in May as well, Eric Heyl, a columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, now assumes presidency of the society. Heyl said he hopes to honor Larry’s memory in the position by employing his dedication to the group, his savvy and his wit.

“Larry’s sudden loss is a tremendous blow, not just to his family, but to our entire organization and the many friends he had at the Hartford Courant and throughout the journalism world,” Heyl said. “Having his voice stilled so abruptly has hit those who knew him extremely hard.”

Larry was a former president of the Connecticut chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and the Connecticut Valley chapter of the Public Relations Society of America. He had served as special assistant to former Connecticut Gov. John Rowland.

An editorial in the Courant,A Great Wit, Gone,” noted that Larry as a “self-described libertarian … provided the right-leaning ballast” through his 1996-2008 op-ed column. From then to his retirement 2011 he bantered with the University of Connecticut’s Gina Barreca in a point-counterpoint column “Irreconcilable Differences” in the Courant.

The Courant’s obituary said Larry was born May 26, 1948, in Chicago and joined the Hartford paper in the early 1970s, working variously as reporter, editor, editorial board member and columnist, even for a time as religion writer. During most of his four decades in journalism, public relations and speechwriting, he also taught as an adjunct in several Connecticut colleges and universities. The Courant has placed on its website a selection of its favorite columns by Larry.

The newspaper reported that even in retirement that he wrote more than 100 columns year for several publications, did some additional writing for the Hartford Business Journal and was editing a book for a New Jersey lawyer.

Here are Larry’s columns from August in the Hartford Business Journal:

Friends of Larry are invited to leave comments to this post as a tribute. There’s a form below.

Several NSNC longtimers wrote remembrances.

Suzette Martinez Standring (2004-06 president): “President Larry Cohen was our officer and a gentleman, a witty man with a long time devotion for the NSNC and his colleagues. Only last week, he was leading our pack to create the best conference ever in 2013. Larry’s gusto and can-do attitude touched us all, and we lost a great friend and leader.”

Bill Tammeus (1992-94 president): “What I most admired about Larry was the breadth of his knowledge, which grew out of his relentless curiosity. It was hard to mention a subject — from politics to religion, from sports to taxes — about which Larry could not be articulate, to say nothing of being funny at times.”

Dave Lieber (secretary, NSNC Education Foundation): “Larry was devoted to columnists, and we were devoted to him. He was smart, funny, friendly and creative, and that’s why we loved him. On behalf of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists Education Foundation, we are saddened to lose our leader because he represented everything that is respected about our profession. And we thank his wife, Jan, for naming our foundation — which provides training and scholarships to young columnists — as a beneficiary upon his unexpected passing.”

Ben S. Pollock (2010-12 president): Larry was the funniest conservative libertarian I ever met. Like any true wit in conversation as well as on the page, he accomplished much by listening closely. Every summer, I looked forward to our conversations at the NSNC conference. I lobbied for him to be to 2010-12 vice president, but everyone wanted him, too. It hurts that he had barely begun the new job. He had assumed the post afire, sending several emails a week with plans for fall and into 2013.

— Ben S. Pollock, NSNC Director of Online Media

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  3 comments for “NSNC President Larry Cohen Dies

  1. Bob Haught
    August 30, 2012 at 12:16 pm

    Larry knew and loved the NSNC as one of its most loyal members. His fellow columnists knew and loved Larry for his sly wit, easygoing charm,wide-ranging journalistic ability and contributions to public service and education. He took office as president with a variety of ideas about the future of our organization. Although his life was cut short before he could reach all his goals, his imprint on our profession will be longlasting.

  2. Kathy Eliscu
    August 29, 2012 at 9:27 pm

    I am so sad and shocked…a wonderful person and incredibly talented man…a terrible loss for all of us. My heartfelt sympathy to his family.

  3. Mike Leonard
    August 29, 2012 at 9:00 pm

    Larry was such a gentleman. We didn’t agree on some political theories and practices at all but we had respectful and fun back-and-forth banter – made more weighty by Larry’s thoughtful draws on his pipe.
    I was truly excited by the prospect of Larry becoming the NSNC president. And I think he was eager to take on that leadership role.
    He still left a legacy of leadership in his writings and the way he carried himself. I cherish the good people I’ve been lucky enough to know. Larry was one of them.

    Mike Leonard
    NSNC President, 2002-04.

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