NEW YORK, July 7, 2023 - Legendary public relations trailblazer and devoted husband, father and grandfather Robert ‘Bob’ Cohn, 88, passed away peacefully in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, on July 4, 2023. For this big, bold, colorful, one-of-a-kind personality to transition from this life with a bang on the 4th of July was only fitting.
Born October 12, 1934, in Brooklyn, New York, to Theodora Kremenko Cohn and Harold Cohn, Bob attended PS 208 and graduated from Midwood High School. Orphaned as a middle schooler upon the untimely death of his parents due to health complications, Aunt Beatrice and Uncle Sol Berman helped to raise Bob and his brother through their teens.
Enlisting at 17 in the U.S. Airforce, Bob aspired to see the world. Instead, his tour of duty as an information officer editing newsletters on base took him to decidedly unexotic locales including Texas, Alaska and Alabama.
Fresh off his military service as a beneficiary of the GI Bill, he enrolled at The University of Alabama (Roll Tide). He continued his journalistic pursuits studying communications and was Editor in Chief of student newspaper, The Crimson White.
On campus, he spotted a stunning co-ed and Bibb County beauty queen. This spawned the most improbable of enduring love stories when a Jewish boy from Brooklyn married Southern Baptist small town girl June Hubbard in Haysop, Alabama, on June 5, 1960.
Ever the intrepid reporter, Bob entered the workforce in Tuscaloosa as a printing salesman and soon joined the Montgomery Advertiser on the police beat and as an editor. As a journalist, he reported on history, including the Freedom Rides and other political and social strife of the Civil Rights movement. In Montgomery, Bob and June began a family, welcoming daughter Terri.
Bob’s journalistic pursuits as Atlanta Bureau Chief for the Savannah, Augusta and Athens newspapers led the family to Augusta, Georgia in 1964. Eventually, they settled in Atlanta for more than half a century. A decorated journalist earning 14 news-writing accolades from The Associated Press and United Press International, Bob was also a Pulitzer Prize finalist in photography for an iconic action shot of lawmaker Denmark Groover tearing the clock off the balcony in the gallery of the Georgia House of Representatives.
Bob and June welcomed daughter Susan and son Greg in Georgia, motivating Bob to embark on a new professional path to better provide for their growing family.
Fueled by a passion for creativity and gift for storytelling, Bob pivoted to a public relations career spanning more than three decades and multiple business ventures with the inception in the 70s of Cohn & Wolfe. Gaining global reach, the firm won business with blue chip brands including Coca-Cola, FedEx, Chick-fil-A and Portman Holdings. Eventually sold to Young & Rubicam and joining forces with Burson Marsteller, the New York-based multinational firm known today as BCW Global traces its roots to Bob’s early entrepreneurial endeavor.
He never left home without a camera, and a life-long love of photography and keen eye for composition and capturing action was Bob’s most defining characteristic. Nothing and no one would stop him from getting “the shot,” and he delighted in editing, printing, and sharing his pictures cherished by friends and family. Through travels spanning continents and attendance at countless competitions, events, parties and festivities, few aspects of life went undocumented if Bob was present, and his art generously shared with others has defined his legacy. Through his work he also became an Olympics aficionado, attending multiple winter and summer games and he avidly amassed a vast array of Olympic-themed tchotchkes, torches, pins, posters, apparel, and other collectibles.
Bringing life full circle in 2021, Bob and June returned to Tuscaloosa settling at senior living facility Capstone Village on the University of Alabama campus. Relishing the youthful energy and vibrant vibe in this bustling college town, Bob enjoyed his final years shooting the action at sporting events including basketball, softball, swimming, soccer, gymnastics, and rowing. Ever the entertainer, he also hosted regular music and photo events for the enjoyment of his Capstone neighbors.
Bob is survived by his devoted and loving wife of 63 years, June Hubbard Cohn; daughter Terri Justice (David); son Greg Cohn (Amy); and five beloved grandchildren who were his pride and joy, Samuel and Lewis Polay, and Grace, Samantha and Owen Cohn. He was preceded in death by his parents, brother Paul Cohn Barton, and daughter Susan Cohn Polay.
In Bob’s immortal words, his incomparable life story is truly “unbelievable.” An indelible original, there will never be another like Bob Cohn. To those fortunate to know him, he is unforgettable.
A celebration of Bob’s long and impactful life will be held in Barge Commons at The Westminster Schools in Atlanta on Saturday, August 5 at 11 a.m. In lieu of flowers for those inclined to memorialize Bob with a charitable donation, contributions are appreciated to Hospice of West Alabama, 3851 Loop Road, Tuscaloosa, AL 35404.