Joel Cohen’s classmates will never forget the enormous spirit for school and community that he displayed throughout his life. Huntington High School held a prominent position on the list of things most important to him. He was widely regarded as one of its proudest and most accomplished graduates.
The well-known local business owner was so successful that following his death, the Cohen family endowed a generous scholarship to perpetuate his memory at his alma mater. This year the fund presented two $1,000 awards to Class of 2018 members Alex LaBella and Christopher Martin.
Mr. LaBella played on Huntington’s football, indoor track and lacrosse teams, distinguishing himself in all three sports. He sang the Star Spangled Banner before a basketball game in the school gym and garnered numerous academic and athletic honors. He is headed to Hobart University where he was recruited to play on the football team. He plans to study criminal justice to prepare for a career in law enforcement.
Mr. Martin played football, volleyball and lacrosse for the Blue Devils. He was named a Distinguished Senior after recording an academic grade average of 90 or better during every semester of high school. The teenager will be attending the University of North Carolina at Asheville and studying for a career in engineering
At UNC Ashville, Mr. Martin will be participating in the “2 plus 2” program that will see him transfer to North Carolina State for his junior and senior years and finish his degree requirements as part of that school’s very highly regarded engineering program. He’s going this route because out of state residents have a very difficult time gaining admittance to NC State.
Joel Cohen was a proud Blue Devil
Joel Cohen was born in Huntington and was as thoroughly a Blue Devil as any one person can possibly be. A 1939 Huntington graduate, he was an exceptional student and an essential member of several athletic teams, including the powerful football squad led by storied head coach William Class. He later served a long and fruitful stretch as president of the Huntington High School Alumni Association.
A large old-fashioned, non-mechanical megaphone that Mr. Cohen used to drive classmates into near delirium during athletic events is in the collection of Huntington’s School Heritage Museum. It symbolizes a bygone era in Blue Devil sports history.
The famed owner of a local business products company, Mr. Cohen was deeply involved in the community and many of its organizations. He organized the Town of Huntington’s celebration of America’s bicentennial in 1976. It was in this spirit of service to others that the Cohen family created the Joel H. and Selma D. Cohen Vocational Scholarship following the Huntington alum’s untimely death. The first award was presented in 1994.
Mrs. Cohen presented the scholarship to Messrs. LaBella and Martin during the senior academic awards ceremony in the school auditorium. She spoke eloquently about both teenagers and their accomplishments and future plans.
Mr. Cohen’s contributions to Huntington are forever recognized in Heckscher Park, where a Japanese cherry tree was planted in his honor. The tree is accompanied by an engraved plaque celebrating the generous gentleman who will always be remembered as one of the most colorful characters in local history.
Mrs. Cohen announced that the scholarship has been presented in each of the past 25 years following Mr. Cohen’s death and that the 2018 awards would be the final ones.