Jeffrey Irl Cohen, a human resources executive for nearly 40 years, who helped advance opportunities for women in manufacturing in the early 1970s, died of bladder cancer April 25 at Gilchrist Hospice Care in Towson.
He was 61 and lived in Owings Mills.
Raised in Woodlawn, Mr. Cohen attended Woodlawn Senior High School, where he met his future wife of 39 years, the former Rochelle Caplan. He was a 1967 graduate.
He received his bachelor's degree in 1971 from the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland, College Park. The same year, he started working as the assistant director of personnel at the Pepsi bottling plant in Baltimore as he worked on his master's degree in administration from College Park.
At Pepsi, he set up a professional personnel office and oversaw labor relations, employment and benefits at the plant, Mrs. Cohen said.
Several years later, he became the director of personnel at Domino Sugar Corp. in South Baltimore, where he worked for 15 years. There, he negotiated labor union contracts and benefits and hiring for engineers and refinery staff. He helped develop a corporate-wide program to hire more women in the refinery.
"He put together his own video and took it to the refineries around the nation …at a time when women were not really working in men's professions," Mrs. Cohen said. "He always was a person who, no matter what level you were, believed in treating people fairly," she said.
In the late 1980s, Mr. Cohen served as vice president of human resources for Saint Agnes Hospital in Southwest Baltimore, where he helped build a modern, more professional department. He started his own business, Practical HR Solutions, while working at Sinai Hospital of Baltimore as the vice president of human resources and doing consulting for Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore and Goucher College, among others. He also taught management courses at the Community College of Baltimore County.
Until recently, when his health began to decline, Mr. Cohen served as the vice president of human resources at Carroll Lutheran Village, a continuing care community in Westminster.
Geary K. Milliken, chief executive and president at Carroll Lutheran Village, worked with Mr. Cohen the past six years and called him "a real asset to the organization," which has about 400 employees.
"He was a great employee advocate," he said. Mr. Milliken said he helped maintain employee packages, even as the recession caused some companies to cut them.
"He always would ensure that I would treat people with respect," said his son, Scott M. Cohen, who added that his father's values and sense of practicality carried over into his own career at the Department of Defense.
Mr. Cohen was active in several professional human resources and local business groups. He was a past board member of Big Brothers and Big Sisters. He was also a member of the Beth Israel congregation.
Mrs. Cohen said her husband was family-oriented; he never missed his son's lacrosse games, even when he had to drive out of state to watch him play.
When. Scott Cohen and his father went downtown to watch a Ravens game last year, his father pointed out various landmarks that held family significance.
"He was what everyone wanted their father to be," his son said.
And when he became ill, Mrs. Cohen said "his main wish was to get back on the floor and play with his granddaughter."
Mr. Cohen and his wife had a second home in Lewes, Del., and he was active in the Rehoboth Beach Film Society and Seaside Jewish Community Center.
He became an avid nature photographer, heading out early to photograph the wildlife around Gordon's Pond Wildlife Area, the Delaware State Seashore Park and Lewes Beach, Mrs. Cohen said.
She said he also loved dogs and said the family rescued a number of pets over the years.
Services were held Wednesday at Sol Levinson and Bros.
Other survivors include his daughter, Jamie Fraunhoffer of Urbana, and one granddaughter.