As of this week, Queens has lost 9,659 residents to COVID, a tragic loss of life for our borough. That’s 9,659 lives cut short, and 9,659 families dealing with the heartbreak of losing a loved one and being confronted daily with the cause of that pain.
This coming Saturday, May 1, some of those families and their friends will gather in Forest Park to remember all of those that have been lost.
The Queens COVID Remembrance Day will take place at the Forest Park Bandshell and be open to the public from 2 to 8 p.m.
Portraits of many of the victims will be on display, filling the empty benches of the bandshell. The portraits were created by 16-year-old artist Hannah Ernst, who started drawing COVID victims after her grandfather Cal passed away from the virus.
There will be a Floral Heart ceremony by artist Kristina Libby at 4 p.m. and a candlelight vigil at 7 p.m.
One of the faces that will be represented in the empty benches will be Woodhaven’s Jeffrey Cohen. I met Jeff just the one time, at a Woodhaven Cultural & Historical Society meeting at the Avenue Diner right before our world turned upside down.
It was nice to meet him. We were friends on Facebook for a while, but hadn’t met in person until that night. He was interested in our neighborhood’s history and enjoyed the presentation. I have a feeling he would have come back to another meeting.
But we never met again. He passed away on April 16, 2020, at the age of 57.
Had I gotten to know Jeff better, I would be able to tell you more. Instead, I asked family and friends of Jeff to tell us a little bit about him. This is from Jeff’s father and his sisters, Rayna and Bari:
Jeffrey Cohen was born March 3, 1963, in Booth Memorial Hospital in Flushing. He grew up in Forest Park Co-ops in Woodhaven and ended up living there with his wife and daughter.
Jeffrey was a loving son, brother, husband, father, uncle and a great friend to all.
Growing up in Woodhaven in the 70’s and 80’s, you could always find Jeff in Forest Park with his friends with his long red rocker hair, which he was famous for and so proud.
As his sisters, we shared hair care products with him and took notes, but we were never allowed to touch his hair.
He made lifelong friends in Woodhaven and loved calling it home.
Jeff always had a smile on his face and was always kind and respectful to others. Everyone that knew him said, “Jeff was just a nice guy.”
“Even during bad times, you would never know because he would still greet you with a smile and without a care in the world.
You can’t plan life, and as his family we are devastated by what COVID took from us. Someone we loved, someone that still had so much life to live, someone we were not done with yet.
The night Jeff passed away, it happened so fast that we are still in disbelief. There is a huge hole our hearts.
Jeff, you are missed so much by all of us and we hope that you are with mommy watching over all of us.
Daddy, Rayna and Bari
Longtime friend Annette Frank wrote:
Jeff was my friend for 45 years. We grew up together, sharing happy times and sad times and every holiday possible.
Over the years, we became more like family than friends. Often I would describe Jeff as my “brother from another mother.”
It’s rare to have a lifelong friendship like ours. I will always cherish our memories. I miss my friend and brother Jeff.
We have all lost something over the past year due to COVID. But most of our losses and problems seem small when compared to the loss of a loved one.
And since the vast majority of the victims’ families were denied the ability to mourn their losses at wakes or funerals, this weekend’s remembrance ceremony is so very needed.
Needed by the Cohen family, mourning their loss of Jeff, and needed by the 9,658 other families mourning their own losses.
And if you are not one of those families, you are very, very lucky and can count your blessings while saying a prayer for the souls of those that COVID took from us all.