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Remembering Judge Cohen

Career of local judge, who died Aug. 10, lasted 50 years; remembered for professionalism, dedication to family, community, love of football
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Honourable Justice Wayne Cohen. Photo supplied

Fond memories and compliments are coming from family members and friends of Judge Wayne Cohen.  

Cohen died Saturday, Aug. 10 at ARCH after a lengthy illness.

He was 85. 

“He has exchanged his black judge’s robe for a white robe,” said Stephanie Martynuck, Cohen’s daughter, speaking to SooToday Tuesday.

Cohen, a Sault native, earned his law degree from Osgoode Hall Law School and worked in the legal field locally, first as a criminal lawyer, then as a judge, for half a century.

He retired in 2009.

“All the lawyers will remember him for his hard work, perseverance and dedication,” Martynuck said.

“I would say he’s most remembered for being very compassionate on criminals. He was also really great at taking the time to help others. If someone needed a reference or a referral, his chambers were always open. He never spoke ill of anyone and was known for saying ‘my pleasure.’ The police officers loved him because even if it was in the middle of the night and they needed a warrant signed, he was the guy to go to.”

A highlight of Cohen’s life outside the courtroom, Martynuck said, was meeting Vince Lombardi, the legendary coach of the NFL’s Green Bay Packers.

“Dad was famous for being a Green Bay Packers fan and ticket holder. He was one of only a few Canadians who had Packers season tickets. Vince Lombardi told him, ‘Wayne, anything in life is yours as long as you’re willing to pay the price, and the price is hard work, perseverance and dedication.’ That was Dad’s favourite quote from Vince Lombardi (the coach known for making many famous quotes), and anybody who came into his chambers left with that.’” 

Cohen was also known for his compassion for individuals dealing with mental health issues, his involvement with the Friendship Games (an athletic competition held annually between Sault Ste. Marie and Saginaw, Michigan from 1977 to 1999) and the Sault Ste. Marie Public Library Board.

“Wayne Cohen was a good hearted person who cared about this community and consistently volunteered to make it a better place...he loved his family very much and was very proud of his children, speaking of them constantly,” wrote Sault lawyer Jeffrey Broadbent in an email to SooToday.

“Wayne also loved his beautiful property on Lake Superior and for many years hosted myself, another lawyer, another judge, my father and a police officer for an annual spring fishing trip. Our fishing group was also comprised of a retired auto worker, retired steelworker, a doctor...Wayne enjoyed being with people of all walks of life.” 

“Wayne loved the north. Two of my favourite memories that I will always cherish include taking him for a low level flight along the coast of Lake Superior and of the time he and I snowshoed into his remote camp one spring. Wayne was always thrilled to be surrounded by the magnificent beauty of Lake Superior,” Broadbent wrote. 

“He was a good hearted and good natured person and I’m deeply saddened by his passing.”

“In my former capacity as an assistant Crown Attorney here in Sault Ste. Marie I had daily contact with Judge Cohen. He was a dedicated judge who always got the right result. He was an even better person, and I was extremely happy to call him a friend both at and away from the courthouse,” stated Sault lawyer Brian Gualazzi in an email.

“I knew Wayne Cohen from his activities with the Conservative Party, as a worker and organizer for the late John Rhodes...he was an extremely friendly individual and I had an opportunity to visit him in ARCH a couple of weeks ago. He was still extremely upbeat and a welcoming, nice gentleman,” said the Sault’s Ian MacKenzie, who worked in media sales and is known for his involvement with several local boards and community soccer.

Cohen is survived by his wife Joan, children Stephanie, Michael, Elizabeth and David, grandchildren Michael, Jordana, Max, Valerie, Caleb, Chloe, Titus, Gabe and Connor, and great-grandchildren Kate, Claire, Sebastian and Kipton.

Friends are invited to visit at the Arthur Funeral Home Barton & Kiteley Chapel at 492 Wellington St. E. Wednesday, Aug. 14 from 10 a.m. to 1 pm. A service will be held beginning at 12:45 p.m.


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Darren Taylor

About the Author: Darren Taylor

Darren Taylor is a news reporter and photographer in Sault Ste Marie. He regularly covers community events, political announcements and numerous board meetings. With a background in broadcast journalism, Darren has worked in the media since 1996.
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