HUNTINGTON — David Cohen, one half of the Huntington institution Mack and Dave's, died early Friday in St. Mary's Medical Center at the age of 94.
In business for 67 years, the store closed its doors in 2016, when the then-92-year-old Cohen retired.
"There's probably very few people of a certain age in Huntington that didn't get their wedding and engagement rings at Mack and Dave's," said longtime patron John Pinkerman, of Lesage.
The store carried, among other things, luggage, furniture, bicycles, musical instruments, cameras, appliances and firearms. It was a department store long before anyone thought of big box retailers.
Cohen met Mack Webb when they worked at B&B Loans in the 1940s. The two opened their own business in 1949, after Cohen returned from three years in the U.S. Army Air Corps in Guam. The business was mostly pawn when it opened, with Webb the diamond expert and Cohen taking care of the rest of the shop.
"Davey had a huge heart and always went beyond what was needed to help out anyone," Pinkerman said. "If he didn't have it, he'd find it for you. If it needed repair, he'd do that, too."
His employees were family to Cohen. He often said he couldn't retire for two reasons, one being, "what would I do all day?" But the other reason, the one that exemplified his heart, was, "What will my people (employees) do? Who'll hire them?"
Many of Mack and Dave's employees had been with the store for more than 40 years.
Growing up in hard times during the Depression, Cohen worked to support his family, taking numerous jobs after school including selling newspapers on the downtown streets and taking a second job at B&B Loans simultaneously. Cohen once said teachers would look the other way when he and others would duck out early to sell papers.
If you asked how he was or how things were going, his answer was always, "Everything's great!" said longtime friend and retired dentist Edward M. Burkhardt.
Starting from nothing, and growing the business he and partner Mack Webb began in July 1949, Cohen was one to help out people who were in need, Burkhardt said.
"This is a sad day. I got to know Mr. Cohen well over the years," said Huntington Mayor Steve Williams. "He was always generous with his time, leadership and mentorship. He represented all that is good of Huntington."
Before his selection to the Huntington Wall of Fame in 2014, Cohen said that many years ago as a young man, he decided if he ever got a little money, he'd help others. And as a member of many civic organizations, he did just that.
A member of the Huntington Downtown Lions Club since 1954, Cohen had been a supporter of that organization locally and internationally, both financially and by donating merchandise for fundraising activities. He was also a member of Elks, the America Legion, VFW, Big Green, B'nai Brith and Huntington Main Street.
According to staff and residents at The Woodlands Retirement Community, where Cohen and his wife lived, his kindness and love for others was evident.
"He always greeted you with, 'Hello there,'" said staff member Kimberly Adkins. "He was the most compassionate, loving husband to his wife, Marilyn."
When the couple would be taking a trip outside the building, Adkins would make certain he had mints.
"(Marilyn) would always ask if I was packing his pockets with mints," she recalled.
Resident Sally Cyrus said some residents had a daily routine of walking the hallways and if Cohen's door was open, they would go in to check on him and give him a hug.
"Barbara Brown, an original Woodlands resident, does that every morning," Cyrus said. "He was special to us all."
Cohen is survived by his wife, Marilyn, daughters, Judy and Jan, both of Miami, Florida, and a sister, Sylvia Sapinsley.
Services will be 2 p.m. Sunday, June 23, at B'nai Sholom Congregation by Rabbi Jean Eglinton. A visitation will be held from 1 p.m. until service time. Interment will be at Spring Hill Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, contributions are suggested to B'nai Sholom, 949 10th Ave., Huntington, WV 25701; or the Woodlands Benevolence Fund, One Bradley Foster Drive, Huntington, WV 25701.