A tribute to Hanoch Kohl, my cousin-in-law
I am back from Hanoch’s funeral and moved to write. In a small box, his ashes were lowered through a deep hole into the ground. Two custodians held the box using two blue straps. I was concerned the straps might slide off, and the box would fall. I was mesmerized and probably underestimating their experience; all went well. Hanoch donated his body to science and asked to be cremated. Elisheva decided to have his ashes buried in the family plot on a hilltop at Eden Cemetery. A peaceful resting place with panoramic views. During a phone conversation, she told me that her body would be laid on top of his ashes at the same grave when the day comes. I said to her: ‘he would love that.’ She said: ‘Yes, he would.’ We laughed.
Hanoch was 70 years old. A week before his death, he celebrated his birthday in Las Vegas, his favorite place. I always wondered how many thousands of dollars he left on those casinos’ tables. I first met Hanoch when I was 11. He married my cousin, Elisheva. They were like fire and water; he was the fire, a big fire. I remember my impressions of him as a child: handsome, tall, fair-skinned, long hair, large sideburns. I think he had a mustache too. He was the first in our family to settle and make a life in Los Angeles; a few of us followed; he paved the way.
Hanoch was a magnet of energy, the leader of his crew. His warmth was infectious. He was caring, generous, and large. I would go into a room, and his energy and big personality were the first things I noticed. We grew up in neighboring cities, Bat-Yam and Jaffa; both our parents were Holocaust survivors. I always felt our similarities. There were years I was scared of him. His temper was wild, he could raise his voice at you, and you did not know where it came from or what caused it. He was explosive, strong-minded, and always right, always right. At the same time, he was never malicious; it was never personal; he was just a passionate human-being. One time at the Las Vegas airport, he became super argumentive with the airline representative. We ended up driving back instead of flying.
Hanoch and Nachume’s partnership was something that always astounded me. Not many business partnerships last that long, forty years – amazing! They were different and yet best friends, like David and Jonathan. Many years ago, they took me on a flight in their Cessna to Big Bear; we had lunch then flew back to Northridge. It’s a magnificent view to have the scenery at the palm of your hand, so close. Yet I did not realize how noisy the engines are and how shaky the flight could get. Hanoch and my uncle Zvi showed up at my USC graduation ceremony. I was surprised and deeply touched by the gesture.
Hanoch and Nachum, I think more Nachum than Hanoch, introduced me to an automotive accessories company that took and distributed a product, which a partner and I manufactured and marketed. Unfortunately, it was not a successful venture, but that’s how you learn. A few years later, a company I worked for placed an order with Hanoch. The results were not on par; my boss did not pay the invoice. I was ashamed, and Hanoch was upset. We never talked about it, and I did not make amends, which I regret.
Hanoch changed; he mellowed with the years. I think Nachum’s calm demeanor had a ripple effect. In recent years the scars of his life long ‘dance’ with skin cancer were more apparent. Ten years ago or so, he went through a thyroid gland procedure that removed a big chunk of his jaw and neck. Yet, Hanoch was not fazed; come to think about it, he was never fazed. It was not in his vocabulary. If anything, I think he poured more energy into his physical regimen, and it showed. He was a robust, masculine specimen almost to the end. Beny, his good friend, and his tennis partner said that Hanoch took great pride in his physique, and why not! People who maintain a regular self-care regimen inspire me. I try to follow.
Since COVID, Hanoch shared with me via Whatsapp clips of the shmaltzy 70’s music we loved and grew up with, the music of our life: Tom Jones, Charles Aznavour, Engelbert Humperdinck, and others. Ryan and James, his sons in law, posted touching eulogies on Facebook. Two quality men, a testament to his daughter’s quality and that of their parents.
I called him a few days before his passing; he took the call. I feel blessed for the chance to connect and say: ‘I love you; I keep you in my good thoughts as you start a new and experimental medical procedure.’ I also told him how grateful I am to have had him in my life, to which he said: ‘I am planning to be in your life for many more years.’ His passing was swift yet predictable. Hanoch and I met very sporadically, yet he taught me a lot. I think he taught all of us by the way he lived and by his motto: ‘Work hard, play hard, life is short.’ He will be missed!
May his soul rest in peace.