George Cohen dies at 72; Masters Hall of Famer admired worldwideIn the late 1950s, George Cohen was a California high school track star. In the 1980s, he was a pioneering masters track record holder at middle distances, winning an M40 world title for 800 in 1981. In 2009, he was inducted into the USATF Masters Hall of Fame. And in 2010, he was my Southern California Striders teammate in a 4×4 at Sacramento nationals. George touched many people along the way, and news of his death Sunday will sadden friends around the world. Rufus Morris, another 4×4 relayist from 2010 along with Rick Muth, wrote Monday: “Our friend, George Cohen, was admitted to Centinella Hospital with an aortic aneurysm on December 9, 2012. Unfortunately, he passed away from complications on December 16, 2012. A memorial service is tentatively planned for January 21, 2013. Details will be forwarded as soon as possible.”
Bill Knocke, a high school rival and friend, writes of the Hall of Famer:
Our leader has passed. Nick Newton called me today with the bad news. George Cohen was a worldÂ icon throughoutÂ the 1980s. Nearly every masters athlete in the world knew George Cohen. George set the bar in the level of competition and records in every event he ran. Those of us that ran with him knew how tough he was from the 400 – 10K. Most of all he was a gentleman.
He set the level of professionalism in our sport.Â He wasÂ on, if not anchored, every American and world relay record team of the Striders. In the 80s I believe â€¦ 4×400 4×800,Â sprint medley, distant medley.Â George set every age-group record in the 800 and 1500.Â I remember one workout I ran with George at 40.Â It was 8x300s with 45 seconds rest. He averaged 46 seconds each. I died at 5.Â George and I competed in 1957 at the California State High School Championships. God Bless the King.
In researching this tribute, I found two notes posted by George on this blog â€” not about his own exploits or records but in appreciation for lost friends.
In January 2011, he noted the death of Louis Beadle and wrote:
I was advised of Louisâ€™ demise a couple of days ago by Sheila Newton, who didnâ€™t actually know much else other than the cause of death and the familyâ€™s wishes per Louis himself. I have a few great memories of him going back to the late 70â€²s-early 80â€²s. As a competitor he was a joy to watch and an inspiration to a young person like me. He was the consummate gentleman at all times and he and his lovely wife and son were always encouraging and fun to be around. He epitomized the spirit of Masterâ€™s competition and typified the reason so many of us continue participating in this wonderful sport. Condolences to Doris and Ron and everyone who knew this special person.
In August 2011, George commented on the passing of Bill Fitzgerald:
I am saddened to hear of Billâ€™s passing. He was a gentleman, a fantastic athlete, a mentor and an inspiration in many ways. Bill personified the good things about participation and sportsmanship.
That was George â€” more interested in celebrating others than himself.
Perhaps the best example of this was the May 2010 surprise party for Nick Newton, another Hall of Famer. George organized the party, which I chronicled here.
I feel humbled and honored to have been one of his last relay teammates. Please join me in sharing condolences to George’s family and many friends.