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“It was love at first sight,” says 93-year-old Cozette. The year was 1946. She was attending a Valentine’s Day dance, hosted by the hiking club where she was a member. Maybe an unusual hobby for a city girl like Cozette, but one that attracted others who shared her love of nature. It was there that a mutual friend introduced her to her to Irving. He seemed kind, with a bubbly air about him. “Also, good looking!” she adds, “tall with dark, curly hair.”
At the end of the night, Irving insisted on escorting Cozette back to her home in Washington Heights, even though he lived on Long Island. They were engaged six months later.
While Cozette’s mother was delighted, her father was not. Irving was older than Cozette and her father doubted his intentions. When Cozette and Irving got married quickly in a minister’s office, they didn’t tell him. On her mother’s suggestion, they waited until her father went to his regular poker game. They broke the news to him via telegram. Surrounded by friends — and with a few drinks in him — he took it well.
The couple moved downtown into their first apartment together, a tiny one-room studio on Hester Street in lower Manhattan, what would eventually become SoHo. They only stayed there a year before moving into a bigger place on Broome Street. At the time, it was the heart of industrial New York, full of textile warehouses, printing plants and its iconic cast iron buildings.
Cozette got a job as a typist at The Journal of Commerce, a storied newspaper covering shipping and global trade that was founded more than one hundred years ago. She soon proved how creative she was and was promoted to the design team. “Not everyone can put a newspaper together,” she says proudly. For the next 33 years, she was responsible for laying out for the newspaper every day.
On the weekends, Cozette and Irving escaped the city, heading to Bear Mountain, where they could spend an entire day ambling about. Every summer, they spent time by the ocean in Bar Harbor, Maine. “That was our favorite place,” Cozette reminisces.
We had a good life together.
They were married for six decades until Irving passed away, nearly 25 years ago. “We had a good life together,” Cozette says. She thinks of him often, especially when she listens to classical music. She recalls their afternoons in the park, attending outdoor concerts. They’d spread out a blanket in the grass, sit and listen together. “He taught me to love music.”
The walls of Cozette’s apartment are covered with photos — and memories. These days, she spends most of her time reading or doing word puzzles. Three years ago, her landlord approached her with an offer: Would she like to move from her fifth-floor walk-up to a unit on the first floor? Cozette jumped at the chance. The landlord even helped her move.
It’s a good thing he did. The stairs had become too difficult for Cozette to navigate. Following hip replacement surgery, she now needs a cane to walk. Tasks that were once simple are now a struggle. Though Cozette loved cooking for Irving, she isn’t strong enough to lift a pot of water onto the stove nowadays. She can still fix herself something easy for lunch, like a sandwich, but Cozette relies on Citymeals for a nourishing dinner each day.
Cozette still yearns to get out in fresh air each day and take a walk, like she and Irving did. When the weather is good, she sits in the park on Spring Street. SoHo has been transformed over the seven decades she’s called it home. With art galleries and boutique shops, “Now it’s been cleaned up for luxury living,” Cozette says. But the neighbors and storekeepers who recognize her always give her a nod or say hello.
She still misses Irving. She probably always will. But he would have wanted Cozette to live life to the fullest, she says. And that’s what she continues to do.