Holly Cohn, a beloved elementary school teacher with deep roots in Berkeley, passed away at her home in Hood River, Oregon, on Jan. 31. The cause of death was amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Holly was 58.
Even after her diagnosis last spring with the fatal neurodegenerative disease, Holly enjoyed a life brimming with joy and love. She filled almost every moment with laughter, color, and adventure, along with love for her family and her three treasured dogs.
Growing up in Berkeley, Holly was the middle of Dick and Sue Goodman’s three daughters. As a 16-year-old, Holly met fellow Berkeley High School junior Eric Cohn. Knowing Holly enjoyed modern dance, Eric joined Holly at her dance class for their first date. She in turn courted him by tucking strawberries in his school locker. Holly and Eric went on to become the loves of each other’s lives. They also became popular Hood River-area teachers.
Holly earned her bachelor’s degree in geography from UC Berkeley, where her father was a noted engineering professor. A gifted athlete, Holly rowed for the Cal women’s crew team. She later obtained a teaching credential from San Francisco State University.
Holly was a natural and devoted teacher. Whether she was transforming an ambitious hike into a treasure hunt for her own boys or enchanting a classroom of elementary school students, Holly had a magical touch with children. She once capped a unit on the Oregon Trail by delighting her fourth graders with a cake baked in the geographically correct shape of the state. She always wanted to do what was best for her pupils.
Holly began her teaching career in 1989 in the small Washington state community of Klickitat before joining Oregon’s Hood River County School District, first as a fourth-grade teacher before switching to kindergarten. Fluent in Spanish, she was a strong advocate of her school’s dual language program. Holly retired from full-time teaching in 2019 and had been working as a substitute teacher prior to her illness.
Though she shied away from being the center of attention, Holly had a tremendous sense of humor. Being in nature and in particular the mountains, where she enjoyed hiking, biking, and skiing, was one of Holly’s great passions. She maintained a wide circle of friends from her Berkeley High School days onward.
Despite the rapid progression of her disease, Holly fought ALS with her characteristic positivity and grace. She told visiting friends that she didn’t have time for a bad day.
Along with her husband, Eric, and sons, Tony and Charlie, Holly’s survivors include her daughter-in-law, Mele; her parents, Dick and Sue; her younger sister, Lilly Goodman-Allwright (Michael Allwright); and many adoring nephews, nieces, and other relatives. Holly was predeceased by her older sister, Paula Jean Goodman.
The family is planning a celebration of Holly’s life in the spring. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests that gifts in Holly’s memory be made to Hood River Adopt a Dog.