I want to tell you something about Larry Cohen, longtime Courant columnist

Larry Cohen, who died suddenly at his Sanibel Island, Fla., home on Monday, was an irascible contrarian, a shoot from the lip conservative, and a big ol’ softie.

I knew Larry because we both worked at the Hartford Courant. Sometimes, he was the Courant’s lone local conservative voice. You could disagree with him — so much you might want to pinch him — but if you read one of his pieces, you’d read others because his writing was  too graceful to avoid.

My husband and I escape to Sanibel Island every January when we can afford it, and one day, we were sitting at a local watering hole when a voice behind me said, “Is that Susan Campbell from the Hartford Courant?” Confused, I turned around to see a grinning Larry. He and his wife, Jan, (a lifelong not-conservative) had a vacation home on the island, where they would eventually retire.

We chatted — both of us extremely aware that neither of our spouses would find shop-talk all that engaging — and then we parted.

We’d run into Larry and Jan every time we visited Sanibel. He was the soul of graciousness, quick to tell us the best places on-island, and always inviting us over for a drink.

I never took him up on that. It felt like an imposition.

One year, I was getting coffee at Sanibel’s best coffee joint, and saw Larry get out of his car. When he walked away, I left a note on the windshield — unsigned — that said “Liberals rule.” He walked out, read the note, smiled, looked around, didn’t see me, and drove off. I don’t remember if I ever told him I was the author of that note, but I bet he figured it out. It was fun to banter with Larry because he didn’t take himself too seriously and he didn’t allow you to, either.

That’s just all hijinks between two coworkers who didn’t get one another, but enjoyed the banter, anyway.

Let me tell you something else about ol’ Larry. More times than I could count, he would stop me in a hallway at the Courant, and tell me about a non-profit that was struggling and needed some press, or someone who was at his/her wit’s (and financial) end and needed the ear (and pen) of a pissed-off journalist. He’d pass on the tip, and say, “I would do it, but — well — you know.” I did. Larry was a shoot-from-the-lip conservative columnist, and it wouldn’t do for him to be perceived as going out guns-blazing to try to help the downtrodden. But the thing is, he did it, anyway. He was a compassionate, fuzzy ball of do-gooderism and he’d hate that last sentence, but tough.

So rest in peace, Larry, you old seventh son of a seventh son. If they’re still making journalists like you, I can’t wait for the next argument.

Published by datingjesus

Just another one of God's children.

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14 Comments

  1. Several months ago, I opened my mailbox and found an envelope from the Hartford Courant hand addressed. When I opened it, there was an article from years and years ago — back when Larry was the religion writer — that he had done about me, with a note saying he thought I’d like to have it. I was quite touched by his gesture after all these years, and delighted to receive it. He and i rarely agreed (though every now and then it would happen), but we liked each other anyway. That’s the way it’s supposed to be…

  2. Susan,
    I never saw Larry frown and I was with him in the Courant newsroom for 14 years.

  3. Susan, what a wonderful tribute. I almost never agreed with Larry, but I read everything he wrote, because, as you say, he was such a wonderful writer. I met him a few times over the years and kind of wish I knew him better, for like you, although I disagreed with him, I suspect we could have been friends.

    1. JOE NUNES MY LOVE FOR YOU IS ETERNAL!!!! How goes the book? (And thanks for your kind words. Larry was that rare breed, wasn’t he? Best part about journalism is getting to meet examples of that breed.)

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