At memorial service, attorney Barry Cohen remembered as someone who cherished his friends and the law

Published September 23 2018
Updated September 23 2018

Barry Cohen made a lot of friends throughout his long career as one of Tampaís top criminal defense attorneys.

But Cohen also made enemies, his fellow attorney Steve Yerrid told the Tampa Bay Times.

Cohen would have welcomed them all to his memorial service, Yerrid said. "He loved his friends and he was grateful to his enemies. His enemies made him stronger and his friends made him feel good."

Cohen died of leukemia on Saturday at the age of 79.

At his memorial service, held Sunday evening at the Bryan Glazer Family Jewish Community Center, the 421 seats were filled and a crowd stood in the back of the auditorium.

Attendees included Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren, Tampa City Council member Harry Cohen and attorney and former Tampa Bay Buccaneer Brad Culpepper.

Such a gathering, Rabbi Gary Klein told the Cohen family during his eulogy, spoke volumes about Cohenís impact on the area.

"They are here because they care about you as they cared about Barry," Klein said.

He added that those who knew Cohen could see that his illness never changed him.

"He wasnít shaken. He remained the same beautiful, courageous person of compassion and integrity that he always was," Klein said.

Cohenís daughter Geena Cohen Zaslavsky spoke of a time when a client escaped jail and showed up to their house. Before turning the man over to law enforcement, she said her dad let him join the family for dinner.

Cohenís widow Barbara observed during her eulogy that the same "dogged determination" that garnered him success in the courtroom was often "infused in our family life.

"A quest to solve the mystery of who ate the last piece of cake or pie," she said, would result in "witnesses called, expert testimony, DNA testing until finally someone would break."

She then described her husband as someone who "loved standing up to injustices and bullies, leveling the playing field.

"He saw the law not as some static entity but as a living, breathing, evolving entity that should be able to withstand the challenging arguments and debates."

The law for Cohen, she said, "was never a job. He cherished our legal system."

Contact Paul Guzzo at [email protected] Follow @PGuzzoTimes.