Peter Kohn

Part Of The Hochschild Kohn Family, He Found His Niche In The World Of Lacrosse, Other Sports At Middlebury College

August 10, 2009|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,jacques.kelly@baltsun.com

Peter Kohn, a retired college athletic team field manager inducted into the Lacrosse Hall of Fame, died Wednesday at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia. He had suffered a heart attack while on a fishing trip near Cape May, N.J. The North Baltimore resident was 77.

"He was an inspirational figure," said former Middlebury College lacrosse coach Jim Grube. "Pete thrived in the environment of coaches and athletes."

Born Myron Gutman "Peter" Kohn in Baltimore, he was the son of Bernard Kohn, whose family owned the old Hochschild Kohn department store. In a 2004 Baltimore Sun interview, he acknowledged that he and his brother, Benno Kohn, "would now be called developmentally challenged." Friends said he had a form of autism but was never officially diagnosed.

He described "long struggles through a plethora of boarding schools" and said he left many "not successful." He said he was "an ungainly youth who couldn't swing a bat well or even run very well" when he tried track. He was a 1954 Park School graduate.

He credited his mother, local actress Hylda Gutman Kohn, with teaching the importance of getting and keeping a job. He became a field manager for local club lacrosse teams, while his brother worked in the commercial photography department of the old News American.

Mr. Kohn worked as a manager for lacrosse clubs and for the North-South All-Star game for more than 25 years and for club teams in the U.S. Club Lacrosse Association.

Mr. Kohn said his life began sorting itself out about 1981 when he arrived at Middlebury College in Vermont to work in the equipment room.

"He was ready for a change," said Mr. Grube, the former Middlebury coach who now lives in Southern Maryland and who found an opening for Mr. Kohn.

He initially passed out towels and water as field manager for the school's lacrosse team. He later expanded his duties to other teams and sports as an assistant equipment manager.

"It was just before my 50th birthday when I went to Middlebury," Mr. Kohn told a Sun reporter. "I suddenly discovered that I wasn't fighting the world anymore. I realized I had found my place. We all hope to be where we're comfortable, people care about us, love us."

He became the subject of an award-winning documentary, "The Keeper of the Kohn." Directed by David Gaynes, the film highlighted Mr. Kohn's last official season with the Middlebury team. It was shown at the Senator Theatre in 2005.

The title refers to the team member who kept an eye on Mr. Kohn, gave him rides and looked after him. Mr. Kohn did not drive a car.

When shooting for the documentary began, Mr. Kohn had become a much-beloved campus figure. Benefactors of the school raised funds to have an athletic field named in his honor.

In the film, he said, "Let your character and dedication stand out brilliantly." After a game, no matter the outcome, he would say, "I'm so proud of you guys. I'm so proud to be part of this team."

Friends said Mr. Kohn became known throughout the lacrosse world for his team spirit.

In 2003, his devotion was recognized when he became one of the few people who never played the game to be inducted into the Lacrosse Hall of Fame at the Johns Hopkins University.

"Only because of her dedication [did we have] a chance to become useful, valuable people to ourselves and the world," he said of his mother. "Though it took many, many years."

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. tomorrow at Park School's Meyerhoff Auditorium, 2425 Old Court Road.

There are no immediate survivors. His brother died in 1998.

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