Final Tribute to Israel "Sonny" Cohen

In Memory
Founder-Charter Member
Chaplain Israel M. “Sonny” Cohen

July 11, 1927- August 18, 2009

Chaplain Israel “Sonny” Cohen, our only treasurer for 31 years, member of the Wassaic Fire Department, NY, answered his last alarm on Tuesday, August 18, 2009 at Putnam Hospital Center in Carmel, NY. The department, his family, friends, PNWFPA chaplains & members, along with hundreds of emergency responders, paid their respects on August 20, 2009 at services conducted at the Hufcut Funeral Home in Dover Plains, NY. The following day a Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated at St. Bernard’s Church, Sharon, CT. Interment was at the Valley View Cemetery, also located in Dover Plains.

Sonny was an educator by profession, teaching for the New York City Board of Education for 34 years, retiring on February 2, 1990.

Born July 11, 1927 in Brooklyn, NY, he was the son of the late Moe and Ethel Cohen. A 1959 graduate of New York University, he earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Vocational Education. He served in the United States Army during World War II. On March 4, 1956 in Brooklyn, NY, he married Elaine Wohl who died September 7, 1996. They had three children; Ian, Sherri and Robin. On November 27, 1997 in Amenia, NY, he married Ann Healy Carney.

Sonny can only be described as the consummate volunteer firefighter! He was a member of the Lake Carmel and Carmel Fire Departments before joining the Wassaic FD 19 years ago, where according to his department, “his was the largest training folder” in their file.

Thirty-two years ago Sonny saw the need for fire police to work together, to train, to demand better equipment and professionally support and protect the members of our fire departments and communities and… did something about it! Starting with a few fire fighters in three towns, he spearheaded the formation of a new fire police organization which, thanks to his foresight, hard work and dedication, today numbers over 425 fire police from over 55 individual fire departments, in three counties, and… neighboring Connecticut…not a bad legacy for any man!

It’s a given, had he run for president he would surely have been elected. But he knew his talents would best be utilized, and that he could be of more service, if he remained treasurer and of course… chaplain.

At the time of his passing he was the Wassaic FD’s department’s chaplain, fire police captain and former commissioner. As a resident of Dutchess County he also served as an investigator with the Dutchess County Bureau of Fire, member of the Dutchess Fire Police Response Team, past chaplain and treasurer of the Fire Police Association of Dutchess County, chaplain and member of the Dutchess County Exempt Firemen’s Association and a Dutchess County Deputy Sheriff’s chaplain. Prior to his joining Wassiac FD when he was a member of the Carmel and Lake Carmel Fire Departments he held several offices including chaplain, photographer and fire police officer.

Sonny was a life member of the Putnam County Volunteer Firemen’s Association, a life member of the Hudson Valley Fire Police Association, a life member of the Faculty-Student Association of the New York State Academy of Fire Science and life member of the Firemen’s Association of the State of New York. In addition he was a member of the New York State Fire Police Association, a member of several national and regional chaplains’ associations including the New York State Association of Fire Chaplains, (where he served as chief chaplain) and a past member and founder of New York State Lodge #188 of the Federation of Police and member of a Mid-Hudson Masonic Lodge. No doubt after the posting of this listing other affiliations will surface and we welcome the opportunity to make any additions that may be provided. But let it be said, with all due respect to all the other organizations Sonny was affiliated with, it is no secret that the Putnam-Northern Westchester Fire Police Association occupied a special place dear to his heart and we remain indebted to him for his years’ of unselfish service.

“Think of him as the same, I say:
He is not dead-he is just away!”

James Whitcomb Riley

A photo tribute follows below. You may hear an audio recording of Sonny, made at the Sheriff's Seminar on April 22, 2009 by clicking here. NOTE: If this file does not run on a MAC, click here to download a file from Microsoft to allow it to play. Use your "BACK" button to return to this page.
Click here to hear the Dutchess County 911 "Last Alarm" announcement for Israel "Sonny" Cohen. Use your "BACK" button to return to this page.

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