Story by LISA ANDERSON
She earned a psychology degree, co-owned a restaurant with her husband, is a mother and a potter, volunteers, loves the outdoors, and was an emergency room nurse for more than 20 years. Kathy Cohen and her husband decided to retire early and found themselves falling in love with the On Top of the World community. They arrived in the Ocala area just three days before the national shutdown in March 2020.
“I didn’t think I could do it,” Kathy admits, while speaking of her retirement. “I am a person who can’t stay still. I like doing things all of the time. I was very nervous about it. My husband has been retired for a number of years. He really wanted me to be retired, but I was so nervous about doing it. I’m surprised at how well I’ve adjusted to it.”
The Road to the Emergency Room
In the late 1980s, Kathy and her husband owned a quaint little restaurant in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Kathy gave birth to her daughter, but she was premature at 26 weeks. The Cohens knew it would be too difficult to care for the restaurant and their daughter at the same time. They made the decision to sell the restaurant and devote their time to her.
When their daughter was about one-and-a-half years old, Kathy’s husband wanted a turn to stay home with her. So, Kathy headed back to work and picked up three jobs: a registrar in the emergency room at a community hospital, a secretary in the pediatric unit, and a daycare employee. “While I was working in the pediatric unit, the nurses kept saying that I should be a nurse. One day, they were working with a new student, and they kept asking her questions. I was muttering the answers under my breath. The charge nurse said, ‘This is stupid. Why are you here? You need to be one of the nurses.’”
Soon after, Kathy’s husband got a new job in the restaurant and hotel industry. This meant moving to the Maryland and Washington, D.C. area, but it also meant they would be moving every few years. “I wanted something that would transfer. So, I decided maybe I’d give nursing a shot. I really [hadn’t] had that in the forefront of my brain before.”
Kathy attended a program at the University of Maryland and spent five years trying to find a position that she enjoyed. “I was hating it. Not hating it. I just wasn’t engaged enough. I said to my husband, ‘I think I made a terrible mistake. I’m not loving this.’”
When she held a position as clinical coordinator, Kathy had gotten to know the nurses in the emergency room. She was close to leaving her job, when the nurses invited her to join them. “From the day I stepped into the emergency room, I just fell in love. It’s crazy. It’s hectic. It’s hard as heck, and I just loved every minute of it.”
Repairing the World
“In addition to doing my nursing shifts, I took Pilates a couple days per week. I love to bake and cook. I’m a potter. I like to volunteer. I like to give back to the community.”
In fact, giving back to the community is one of the tenants of Judaism Kathy practices faithfully. “Tikkun olum means ‘repairing the world.’ I’m still looking for other ways to get involved and give back.”
Before her retirement, Kathy found many ways to volunteer and help her community. One of her favorite experiences was working with Future Link. “I was a mentor for several young ladies that came from varied backgrounds. [They] needed guidance to make it through college and start their careers. It was a big part of my giving back experience, a very humble and worth-while experience.”
Despite her reservations about moving to Florida, Kathy has been very happy with her and her husband’s choice. She says it feels like they have been in their neighborhood for 10 years already. “We’ve made incredible friends.”
She hopes to continue to volunteer, but Kathy is also excited to set up her pottery studio in their garage and go hiking and kayaking. She spends a lot of time making all sorts of bread, as well, including sourdough, challah, pitas, and more. She’s even joined the Jewish club in On Top of the World.
Kathy is sure to brighten any community with her sunny disposition and the way she puts people at ease. It is no surprise that she has already made friends, with many more to come. Welcome to Ocala!