Nurse pays it forward with Foundation fund after a lifetime of giving back

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A giver and a doer. That’s how Lucy Cohn once lovingly described Norman, her husband of 54 years. But you would be hard pressed to find anyone who knew and loved Lucy to use anything but those very same words to describe her.

Or, in Norman’s own words: “Helping people was her main thrust.”

Lucy lived a full life of service, from an Army nurse tending to WWII veterans at a psychiatric hospital in Kentucky to a volunteer counselor providing comfort to the dying at Columbia St. Mary’s Hospice in Milwaukee. Despite her death in 2013 at age 90, that spirit of giving continues through the Norman and Lucy Cohn Family Fund. She and Norman created the designated fund through a deferred gift of their 24th floor downtown Milwaukee condo, with a retained life interest.

“They came from very modest means and were very frugal,” said attorney George Dionisopoulos of Lucy and Norman, who died in 2000. They did not look to live some type of luxurious lifestyle. It was very clear they would save for helping others and for charity.”

Lucy was born in Kokomo, Indiana, one of 10 children of Russian emigrants. She graduated from Cincinnati’s Jewish Hospital School of Nursing before serving in the Army Nurse Corps. While raising two sons, Lucy became what Norm described as a “perennial student,” eventually earning a bachelor’s degree in nursing from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, a master’s degree from University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and a doctorate from Marquette University. Her career included time as a nurse at Columbia Hospital and Mount Sinai, director of patient care services at Mount Sinai, head of psychiatric nursing at Milwaukee County General Hospital School of Nursing and nursing professor at several local colleges before eventually going into private practice.

“I’m a peripatetic counselor,” she said in a 1972 Milwaukee Sentinel story. “I counsel in equipment rooms, in classrooms, in corridors and on stairways. There’s no place I don’t counsel.”

Lucy’s volunteering knew no boundaries either. Every day she devoted time and compassion somewhere, from the Milwaukee Public Library to the Milwaukee Art Museum to the Temple Emanuel El B’ne Jeshurun. In fact, Lucy continued seeing clients and fulfilling her volunteer duties up to the last days of her life.

“She certainly found great comfort and satisfaction in helping others,” Dionisopoulos said. In fact, Lucy continued seeing clients and fulfilling her volunteer duties up to the last days of her life.

Besides Norman and nursing, Lucy’s other love was the arts, particularly UWM’s Fine Arts Quartet. The first two seats in the first row were reserved for her, a devoted patron for more than 50 years.

“I think she liked that there was an opportunity to regularly hear these musicians in Milwaukee,” said Diane Grace, director of development at UWM’s Peck School of the Arts, who would often serve as her concert companion. “She had a real love for people and personally knew all the various members over the years and was passionate about the music.”

As a show of her affection, she left a $100,000 gift to be used as a permanent endowment for the world-class group.

“She always seemed to think of others first,” Grace said.

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