A Philanthropic Life: 102-year-old Woman, a WWII Vet, Keeps on Giving

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April 30, 2012; Source: Los Angeles Times

Bea Abrams Cohen is believed to be the oldest living female WWII veteran in California and one of the oldest in the country, according to the California Department of Veterans Affairs. The 102-year-old veteran was recently honored for her achievements in the armed forces at a celebration during Women’s Military History Week at California’s Capitol. Cohen enlisted in the U.S. Army during World War II, and served in the communications department in England. She has supported the U.S. military and philanthropic organizations for over seventy years since.

Bea Cohen’s lifelong commitment to philanthropy is inspiring. After serving in the Army, Cohen got involved with a local group for former prisoners of war and became the Jewish War Veterans Auxiliary’s chairwoman for child welfare. She was also was involved with the United Cerebral Palsy-Spastic Children’s Foundation for 35 years. Cohen volunteered her time to taking the Foundation’s children on trips to Disneyland and built a small park with the help of Chief Master Sgt. Jason Young. In doing so, Cohen a profound impact on Young, a returning Air Force soldier when he met her.

“Here I am returning from Vietnam,” Young says. “I had issues, emotional issues,” says Young, who is now 68. “I kept to myself. When I saw this woman doing what she was doing, caring for others, it kind of got me out of my shell. She helped me to be better able to be around people, to function.”

Even after Bea Cohen became legally blind in 1990, she has continued to give back to those in need. Recently, she helped the Quilts of Valor Foundation bestow dozens of quilts to veterans.

What’s Cohen’s secret to a life of longevity? It’s all about “mitzvah,” she says—the Hebrew word meaning an act of human kindness or a moral deed. Mitzvah seems to be working in the philanthropist’s favor. Maybe we can all learn from Bea Cohen’s wisdom. –Aine Creedon

  • Josh

    This is incredibly inspiring. I can see how giving can be so life-giving. It makes sense!

  • P Zucker

    Just a quick clarification – “mitzvah” actually means commandment. We are commanded to do this. Ms. Cohen has and certainly is fulfilling the commandment of “tikun olam” repairing the world. May she live to be 118!