Fred B. `Fritz' Cohn, 82, owner of kosher bakeries

July 19, 2006|By JACQUES KELLY | JACQUES KELLY,SUN REPORTER

Fred B. "Fritz" Cohn, a kosher baker who created the recipe for the coffeecake his children still make and sell, died Saturday of a heart blockage at Northwest Hospital Center. The Reisterstown resident was 82.

Born in Leipzig, Germany, Mr. Cohn had wanted to follow his father and become a physician. But the Nazis had come to power and forbade Jews from entering medical school. His children said Mr. Cohn became an apprentice to a baker whose business was on the ground floor of the building where they lived -- and that he never forgot the training.

The family fled Germany in 1939 and settled in La Paz, Bolivia, where as an 18-year-old, Mr. Cohn opened a small bakery.

"One day a cute, red-headed girl walked in and became a saleslady for him," said his daughter, Leah Cohn Wander, speaking of her mother, the former Inge J. Falkenstein. "Her job did not last that long, but their marriage lasted 57 years."

In 1954, the Cohns moved to Baltimore with $50 in savings. Mr. Cohn immediately took baking jobs, first at the old Nate's and Leon's deli on West North Avenue, where he made a locally renowned strawberry cake, and at a bakery in the old Hilltop Diner in Northwest Baltimore.

In 1960, he opened Freddy's Bakery on Garrison Boulevard, and in 1965 he bought Goldman's Kosher Bakery at Rogers and Park Heights avenues. Mr. Cohn moved Goldman's in 1973 to the Fallstaff Shopping Center on Reisterstown Road, where it remains -- operated by his wife, son and two daughters, all Reisterstown residents.

"My mother and father worked side by side for more than 40 years," his daughter said. "They had their moments, too. My mother sometimes quit. Then my father would quit. But none of us could be fired. I would just like to get fired for three days."

Family members described Mr. Cohn as "obsessive" about the quality of his multilayered rainbow cake and napoleons. He also created a recipe for a Danish coffeecake, a 24-inch-long strip redolent of cinnamon and molasses.

"He could make the simplest challah roll up to the fanciest wedding cake," said his son, Max Louis Cohn, who learned his father's recipes and does much of the baking alongside assistants hired by his father 40 years ago.

Mr. Cohn said he was going to retire about 15 years ago but still came in the store daily, except Saturday, when the store is closed for the Jewish Sabbath.

"He wanted to make sure we were in line," his son said.

After developing Alzheimer's disease several years ago, Mr. Cohn, assisted by family members, would still return to the bakery. In December, he helped knead Dresden stollen, a type of Christmas bread he made, according to kosher law, without butter.

"On Memorial Day, I was icing some Jewish star cookies with my father," his daughter said. "He could not verbalize well because of his condition, so he pointed to me, indicating I was being a little bit sloppy. My father was a perfectionist at work and he would let you know it if something was not right."

Several days a week, Mr. Cohn spent time at an adult day-care medical center in Owings Mills called Senior Connections. On Thursday, he cut out some cookies for a baking session run at the center. He became ill on Friday and died the next morning.

Services were Sunday.

Survivors also include his other daughter Ruth Avrahami; a brother, Ulrich Cohn, and sister, Ingeborg Weinberger, both of Pikesville; three grandchildren; and a great-granddaughter.

jacques.kelly@baltsun.com

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