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Charlene Stephenie Cohen

January 2, 1948 - March 9, 2024

Posted 3/29/24

It is with unimaginable sadness that our family suddenly lost our cherished Charlene Stephenie Cohen, age 76, on Saturday, March 9, 2024 at 3:03 PM at San Javier Hospital in Guadalajara, Jalisco, …

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Charlene Stephenie Cohen

January 2, 1948 - March 9, 2024


It is with unimaginable sadness that our family suddenly lost our cherished Charlene Stephenie Cohen, age 76, on Saturday, March 9, 2024 at 3:03 PM at San Javier Hospital in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico. After lengthy spinal surgery on Wednesday, March 6, Charlene was tragically unable to recover from the surgery. With her spirited passion, Charlene fought hard for three days. Her son Eric and her husband Alan were with her holding her hands and flooding her with goodbye kisses when she passed. Charlene was a caring and loving wife to her husband Alan for 28 years and an amazing mother to Eric always.

Charlene was born in Long Branch, New Jersey and grew up in Highlands, New Jersey. Her family moved to many small towns in the lower Catskills, and Charlene was predominantly raised in Roscoe, NY and graduated from Roscoe Central School. In September 2016, she celebrated the 50th anniversary of her graduation with many former classmates. 

Charlene moved to Carmine Street (Little Italy) in Manhattan in the 1960’s. She especially enjoyed frequenting the jazz clubs including the Cafe Wha and the Bitter End and picking up pastries from Ferrara Bakery and Cafe on Grand Street. Decades later she still stopped in at Ferrera’s and John’s Pizzeria on Bleecker Street.

Charlene met Zoltan Knesz in New York City and they married in 1971 and moved to Midland Park, NJ. It is here that her son Eric was born and raised before moving to Flagstaff, Arizona to attend Northern Arizona University.

By that time, Charlene had moved to Sedona, Arizona and become the pastry chef at the Enchantment Resort. Char was regionally celebrated for her Chocolate Chunk Vortex Cookies, and knowing the way to his heart was through his stomach, she tempted her future husband with cookies and other delectable pastries. Set against the splendor of the red rocks, Charlene and Alan were married on December 9, 1995 at the Enchantment Resort.

After getting clients, friends, and family to indulge in her sugary treats, Charlene pursued another passion, studying to become a massage therapist. She practiced in Sedona for ten years and converted clients into lifelong friends.

In 2005, Charlene and Alan left Arizona for the Pacific Northwest, first to Portland, Oregon, and then in 2006 to beautiful Whidbey Island, Washington so they could be closer to Char’s son Eric who lived in Seattle. Using her baking skills, Charlene volunteered for Whidbey Island Nourishes (WIN) which helped to provide meals for many students who otherwise would have gone hungry. Char was also a beachwatcher volunteer on Whidbey, monitoring the migration patterns of local seabirds.

As time passed and the rains on Whidbey grew more difficult to accept after 12 damp years, Charlene and Alan moved to San Juan Cosala in Jalisco, Mexico in 2019 to a new family home. As always, Charlene formed bonds with the blossoming flowers, visiting birds, and the monarch butterflies as they developed from their chrysalis; these relationships being some of the most cherished aspects of her life.

Charlene’s sister Joanna was struggling with Multiple Myeloma for many years and in September 2021, Joanna moved into the family home which provided a sanctuary for Joanna in her remaining days, something that Charlene cared about deeply.

In October 2021, Char’s son Eric moved into the family home and Char was able to spend the next two and a half years with Eric, talking, eating, drinking coffee, walking on the malecon and even traveling down to Oaxaca to meet Eric’s friends and their families. Having both Joanna and Eric with her were wishes Charlene had for years and ultimately dreams fulfilled.

Charlene was also a loving daughter and sister. Charlene was preceded in death by her parents Charles and Josephine Smith, her sister Connie Crews and her husband Fred, her brother John Smith, her sister Barbara Conley and her husband Howard, and her sister Joanna Dean.

Charlene is survived by her brother Charles Smith and his wife Margie, her sister-in-law Peggy Smith, and her sister Mary Ellen Kuttner and her husband Frank and many, many other nieces and nephews.

Charlene was an inspiration to everyone in her family and especially served as a role model for the young women in her family. She was an amazing cook and went above and beyond to entertain friends and family with remarkable food and her incredible presence. She had a love of books and was always interested in expanding her knowledge in a vast array of subjects.

In addition to her backyard birds and flowers, Charlene was a mother to a series of cats who all hit the jackpot when they selected her: Paws, Sam, Mush, Leo, Sadie, and now Sophie. There were many others. Charlene’s mom Josephine always referred to herself as Matka Kotow, or Cat’s Mother in Polish, a title she lovingly passed on to Charlene.

If there was one thing to say about Charlene it was this: She had a smile that no room of any size could contain. As her son Eric said, “Her passing is truly unbelievable. She will be deeply missed as she was the kindest, most gentle, generous person you’ll ever know.”