Eileen D. COHEN, 90, of Eau Claire died peacefully on Saturday, May 6, 2017, at Dove South after a short battle with metastasized cancer.

Eileen was born June 17, 1926, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, to Edith and Lewis E. Phillips.  She was a life-long resident of Eau Claire, Wisconsin other than her four years at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, where she was the first in her family to earn a college degree.

She was passionate about music, especially the violin, and was the concert mistress while at Eau Claire Senior High School (the predecessor to Memorial High).   As an adult, she played in the first violin section in the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire symphony for more than forty years.

She met the man who would become her husband, Melvin S. Cohen, while working as a summer intern at National Presto.   They married in August 1946 and celebrated their 60th anniversary in 2006.

Eileen was a model woman of her time.  She took great pride in supporting her husband, her two daughters, and in providing a wonderful home.  All meals were cooked from scratch, and her pecan-caramel rolls were a particular treat. Her garden was both a place of beauty and a bird sanctuary.  She devoted considerable time to her community, serving on the Luther Hospital Auxiliary, the University Wisconsin Eau Claire Foundation, and Vocational School boards, and coordinating fund raising drives for Visiting Nurse and Family Service. She also delivered Meals on Wheels, and provided multiple services to the Luther Hospital gift shop, from acting as treasurer to making the decorative bows sold in the shop.  Maintenance and upkeep of property was important to her and she was instrumental in ensuring that the L.E. Phillips Memorial Library that bore her father’s name was refurbished when the original furnishings began to show wear.

Eileen was very much a part of her husband’s success and in his later years devoted herself to being his companion and nurse until his death in 2008. Thereafter, she continued to maintain her home and garden, enjoyed time with PEO (Chapter BE) friends and a group known as the “Golden Girls,” and was engaged in everything from Judaism to current events to music.    As the daughter of a European Jewish immigrant, she was aware of her good fortune in being born in the U.S. and deeply appreciated the form of government and the free enterprise system that made the quality of her life possible.   She strongly believed in education and was instrumental in setting up the Holocaust class at the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire.  Music education was important to her as well, and she supported scholarships for string players at the University for decades.  Recently, she modified the program to provide full scholarships for a complete quartet, currently known as the L.E. Phillips Quartet. She was very proud of the quartet’s achievements and regretted her inability to attend the forthcoming May 11th concert.  

Survivors include her two daughters, Amy Alpine (John Grump) and Maryjo Cohen, of Eau Claire, Wisconsin, and one granddaughter, Alyssa Alpine, of Brooklyn, New York.

A very private and modest person, Eileen insisted on a private graveside service limited to family and fellow Temple Sholom congregants.  That service and interment will be today (Tuesday, May 9) at B’nai B’rith Jewish Cemetery. Rabbi Shoshanna Dworsky will officiate. A reception for family and friends will follow at the French Press, 2823 London Road, from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m.

The family asks that no flowers be sent. Memorials may be directed to a fund set up in Eileen’s name for the renovation of the Shell Lake Art Center (Box 315, Shell Lake, WI 54871). Best known as a summer music camp, Shell Lake has fostered many of the young artists who have gone on to study at the University of Eau Claire’s music program.




  1. Dear Maryjo, and family,

    Please accept my sincere sympathy for your loss. Your mother/grandmother was an exceptional, elegant person. The world is a better place because of Eileen and she will be greatly missed.

  2. May fond memories of Eileen bring you comfort during this hard time in your life. Look back on all the good memories you were able to have and smile at the fact that you were able to share these before she passed away. My hearts and prayers go out to you and your family. God has promised us that we will soon be reunited with our loved ones. “There is going to be a resurrection,” the Bible confirms at Acts 24:15. “Do not be amazed at this,” Jesus assures us, “for the hour is coming in which all those in the memorial tombs will hear his voice and come out.” (John 5:28, 29)

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