It was a quiet evening at home when Arlene G. Cohen’s husband Steve turned to her and said, “Do you want to move to the South Pacific?”
Steve was a tax attorney in private practice and had seen an ad for a job in Saipan, U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Arlene had moved to Seattle from Los Angeles in the early 1970s and got her Master’s in Library Science from the UW in 1973. When Steve — they met here through one of the earliest Jewish computer dating services — posed that question, Arlene was a tech writer and editor at Boeing.
“When I married him I thought I would stay in Seattle the rest of my life,” she says, but she said yes and they left Seattle in late 1987.
In 1990, Arlene was offered a job at the University of Guam and spent a year and a half commuting between Saipan and Guam until Steve also moved to Guam.
“The university is the main educational institution for that area,” including Micronesia, Palau, American Samoa and the Marshalls.
“We would get students from all the islands and even the U.S., Philippines and Japan,” Arlene says.
As associate professor and head of the University of Guam Library Circulation and Interlibrary Loan Department, she was interested in library development in the region and co-founded the Pacific Islands Association of Libraries and Archives. After retiring in 2007, she helped establish a network of nine medical libraries among those Pacific Islands, funded by grants from the Robert Wood Johnson foundation, or, as she called them, “the Band-Aid people.” She did part of this work while being treated for, and recovering from, breast cancer.
Arlene — now back in Seattle — received the 2011 Distinguished Alumni award from UW iSchool (short for “Information School” as the school of library science is now known) in May.
“I’ve always been interested in resource sharing,” she says.
iSchool dean Harry Bruce presents Arlene Cohen with the Distinguished Alumni award on May 19. (Photo by Gavin Sisk)
In Guam, the couple found their Jewish community through the local military base. “The military had a multipurpose center. If you went in one door it was Jewish and if you went in another door it was Catholic,” she says. “The military would send rabbis for the holidays.”
Back home they are involved in the Kavana Cooperative (www.kavana.org), and are working to develop a bigger group of retirement age adults in the cooperative.
• • •
Like many of us, Michael Cory received an orchid as a gift. It came from his wife Sheila almost 25 years ago.
Most of us, however, don’t turn that little floral gift into a major hobby, but he did.
“I managed to get it to re-bloom,” recalls Michael. This can be challenging, as those of us who’ve received a store-bought orchid can attest.
Living in Chapel Hill, N.C., “we had a nice sun porch,” which first housed his collection and “then we built a greenhouse, a small greenhouse” as the collection grew.
Michael, a computational chemist who grew up in New York and California, retired in 2002 and Sheila, who worked in the University of North Carolina’s department of education, retired in 2006. They moved to Seattle five years ago to be near family.
Once here, they built another small greenhouse and Michael started a new collection from scratch. Being tropical, orchids don’t take to temperature extremes and don’t travel well.
There are also, I learned, some temperate orchids with “over 40 species” in this state. They are primarily low growing and tiny, and include some varieties of lady slippers. Michael says they have become almost impossible to find due to attempts by well-meaning folks to transplant them. This is almost always unsuccessful.
“You really have to be an expert to get them to grow outside their natural habitat,” he says.
Michael is an active volunteer with the Northwest Orchid Society (www.nwos.org), sometimes exhibiting at their monthly shows.
“I grow for fun, not for competition,” he says.
He volunteers as well at the Volunteer Park Conservatory, and the week we spoke, Michael was a counselor at a “plant camp” there, teaching kids about plants. (Visit www.volunteerparkconservatory.org, but really, you ought to visit in person — it’s one of my favorite places in Seattle.)
When not tending his orchids, which takes about an hour a day on average, the Temple Beth Am members enjoy hiking, spending time with their kids and grandkids, and, Michael says, “I walk Green Lake whenever I can.”