Charlotte Anita Jacobs was born in March of 1928. Trenton, NJ was her home from birth until she was married & moved to the New Jersey shore. She was the only daughter of Myer & Molly Jacobs – both Lithuanian immigrants. English was her second language, being initially immersed in a Yiddish-speaking household.
She excelled at both art & music, and won acclaim & scholarships with her violin playing. Mom attended Trenton State Teacher’s College, and began her teaching career at her alma mater, Trenton High School. She met a young GI from Brooklyn, NY named Melvin Mankin at a dance, and married him in 1951. His military duties carried them to Stuttgart, Germany. With Stuttgart as an anchor point, they traveled across Europe and enjoyed their early married life with the newly-rebuilt Europe as their backdrop.
My late brother Mark was born in 1954, after Dad’s military service had ended & he returned to the States for his delayed college career. I was born in 1958, and the Mankin family moved from Trenton to Lakewood, NJ – for my father’s new teaching position at Bricktown High School.
In 1960, at age 29, my father died suddenly of a heart attack, leaving Mom to raise her two sons. In 1965, she married Maxwell Cohen, and we all moved to his house on the other side of town. Mom gave birth to my brother Philip Cohen in 1967.
In 1971, Max Cohen suffered a fatal heart attack, and once again Charlotte Cohen was the sole parent – now of 3 boys.
As her sons grew, there were health difficulties. Mark’s congenital spinal condition required several neurosurgeries, and Phil suffered occasional seizures. Her dedication to both conditions was fierce. Mark was hospitalized in Atlantic City once, and twice in New York City. Mom drove to New York daily – a 70-mile trip each direction (for months), plowing her way through the Cross Bronx Expressway to get to Albert Einstein Memorial Hospital & Montefiore Medical Center.
My mother continued to play her violin throughout her life, and certainly provided my first musical inspiration. She drove frequently to Boston to shuttle me back & forth to college, and eventually traveled to Washington to hear me perform with the Navy Band.
My mother fell one day while participating in a ‘volksmarch’ in Philadelphia, and x-rays revealed unusual growths in her hip. She was diagnosed with bone cancer, but a growth near her brain caused her more severe problems soon afterward. Her decline was very slow, and I know she suffered greatly. She attended my wedding in 1995, and I think it was her last happy time. We visited her in a nursing home in New Jersey for months – then years. She was often unconscious, and we never really knew if she was aware of our presence. We spoke to her, assuming she could hear us, and we delivered the news that she would be a grandmother for the first time in a few months. There was no reaction to the news – immediately.
As I escorted Kathy down the front steps – on the way to the hospital to give birth to our daughter Emma, the phone rang. It was the hospital in Lakewood, NJ. Mom’s condition had grown grave, and they needed a decision on resuscitation. As hard of a decision as this should have been, it was actually an easy one – Mom had suffered enough, and her quality of life had deteriorated well beyond imagination. It was time to let her go.
Emma was born after 30 hours of labor on May 29th, 1999. Mom held on, as if she knew that her granddaughter was coming. Emma & Charlotte crossed paths at heaven’s gates – one heading to earth, and the other leaving. They shared this world for 4 days, and my mother died peacefully, after she knew Emma had arrived safely – even though they were each hospitalized 300 miles apart.
Emma’s first kiss didn’t come from Kathy or me – I believe Grandma Charlotte held the door open for her to enter our lives. Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. Thanks for waiting those last few days.