Helen “Halinka” Degen Cohen
Helen Degen Cohen was born Halina “Halinka” Degenfisz on November 19, 1934 in the town of Grojec, located near Warsaw, Poland. A Holocaust survivor, Helen was kept in hiding during World War II by Maria Szumska. Helen and her parents Joseph Degen and Bluma “Bella” (Dreyer) Degen later settled in Chicago. Helen graduated from Roosevelt High School, and later from Trinity University and University of Illinois Circle Campus. She married Arnold Lewis Cohen, with whom she had three children – Richard Scott, Daniel, and Laura. She later married Donald Neil Memmer, who preceded her in death.
Helen had a long career as a writer and educator. She was a co-founder and continuing editor of the RHINO Poetry Journal, which next year celebrates its 40th anniversary. She was an elementary school teacher, taught college classes, and toured the State of Illinois as an Illinois Artist-in-Residence. An acclaimed writer of poetry, short stories, and novels, Helen received many prizes and awards, including the Paladin Award for extraordinary long-term contribution to poetry in Illinois. She leaves behind a vast body of literature, some of which will be published in the coming years.
When Helen passed, she remained engaged in her lifelong passions. Her life-ending brain aneurysm occurred while participating in a RHINO Poetry Workshop. Her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren were making plans for one of her favorite family get-togethers – the Thanksgiving Holiday.
Helen leaves behind three children – Richard Scott Cohen (Gitte Hansen-Cohen), Dan Cohen (Micki Sand-Cohen), and Laura Cohen; four grandchildren – Tara Cohen Kisner (Ryan Kisner), Josh Cohen, Claudia Cohen, and Eric Cohen; and three great-grandchildren – Samantha Frost, Ella Kisner, and Kailynn Kisner. She also leaves behind a multitude of friends and colleagues, many of whom have expressed sincere appreciation for the influence Helen had on their lives.
Those wishing to do so may send a donation in Helen’s memory to:
PO Box 591
Evanston, IL 60204