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In Memory

Joni Amdur (Cohen)

Joni Amdur (Cohen)

JONI AMDUR COHEN    May 20, 1947 -- March 9, 2016

 "Tonight the world lost a very brave and beautiful woman.  Our Mom Joni Amdur Cohen passed away after courageously battling cancer for 4+ years.  She was the most caring, selfless, thoughtful, giving woman. Joni was a truly amazing mother, grandmother, wife, sibling, and friend to those who were lucky enough to know her.  We will forever feel grateful and blessed that she was our Mother, our forever warrior.  We love you and miss you Mom!"

By:  Daughters Julie and Elana

Joni was one of a kind and we who got to spend the 45th Reunion with her have to be reveling in the time spent 6 years ago.  Joni left behind her wonderful husband Jesse and two loving daughters Julie (Matthew) Pittinsky and Elana (Larry) Kutz as well as 5 beautiful grandchildren Marin, Luke and Drew Pittinsky and Arielle and Emery Kutz.  Her obit is not yet in the paper, but we wil forward as soon as it is published.  The funeral is Monday, March 14.

Should you wish to extend your condolensces, their address are as follows:

Dr. Jesse Cohen
1133 W. Palmaritas Drive
Phoenix, AZ  85021

Julie and Dr. Matthew Pittinsky---Marin, Luke, and Drew  
8848 N. Avenida del Sol
Paradise Valley, AZ 85253

Elana and Dr. Larry Kutz----Arielle and Emery
7324 E. Kalil Drive
Scottsdale, AZ  85260

So many adored Joni, so please fell free to make a comment and sharing this sadness with each other.


Joan Cohen Obituary: Joan Cohen’s Obituary by the The Arizona Republic. 3/13/16, 4:28 PM

Cohen, Joan "Joni"

Cohen, Joan "Joni" (Amdur), age 68, of Phoenix, Arizona passed away March 9, 2016 surrounded by her loving family after a heroic 4-year battle with cancer. Joni was a devoted wife, cherished mother, grandmother, sister and friend. She was known and loved for her dedication to the Phoenix Jewish community. She served as Program Director of Beth El Congregation in Phoenix for 21 years, including 11 years as a member of the Board of Directors. Born in Pittsburgh, PA, Joni was a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh (elected Miss Pitt in 1969) and Mount Lebanon High School in Pittsburgh, PA. Joni was preceded in death by her parents Ted and Marian Amdur. She is survived by her beloved husband of 46 years, Dr. Jesse Cohen, children Julie Cohen Pittinsky (Matthew) and Elana Cohen Kutz (Larry), loving grandchildren Marin, Luke and Drew Pittinsky and Arielle and Emery Kutz, siblings Lois Zuckerman (David), Elliot Amdur, and many nieces, nephews, cousins and friends. A memorial service will be held Monday, March 14, 2016 at 10 AM at Beth El Congregation in Phoenix. Burial will follow at Mt. Sinai in Scottsdale. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Valley of the Sun Jewish Community Center (c/o Joni Cohen Memorial Fund) or the American Cancer Society . Arrangements by Sinai Mortuary. Funeral Home Sinai Mortuary of AZ, 4538 N. 16th Street Phoenix, AZ 85016 602-248-0030. Published in The Arizona Republic on Mar. 13, 2016.

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03/14/16 11:42 AM #6    

Roger S Cunningham

I have known Joni for 60 years as we started first grade together at Jefferson.  I remember being in a play with Joni in either first or second grade.  I played a cobbler and she was my wife.  I think Joni was one of the sweetest persons I have ever known.  It was a real treat to see her at our 45th Reunion 5 ½ years ago, and I was really looking forward to seeing her at our 50th.  I was in touch with her weeks before the reunion.  She was hoping to make it, but she just wasn’t well enough to make the long trip.  You can count me among the many people who will truly miss her.

03/14/16 12:55 PM #7    

Marjorie Fiedler (Samuels)



When I remember Joni I must think back many decades to when we were in Sunday School together. She was always such a lovely girl. If it could be said of a child she had an innate elegance and sweetness to her. Sometimes when the person is gone the feelings they aroused remain. Seeing her at our 65th was a special treat that warmed my heart. May she rest in peace.

Marjorie Fiedler Samuels






03/15/16 11:29 AM #8    

Laurie Kanters (Micheau)

I was so delighted to reconnect with Joni as I was one of the ones she found during her work to put together the 45th reunion.  Unfortunately I was not able to attend as my husband was also battling cancer but we remained in touch from that point on.  Our time goes back to Jefferson Elementary School.  Not a person didn't want to be her friend and I loved being one of those friends.  My heart goes out to all her family.  

03/16/16 09:04 AM #9    

Patricia A O'Brien (Maxwell)

I was so sorry to hear of the passing of Joni. We were in the same home room. I was so glad to see her at the reunion a couple years ago. Mark  and I had planned to make the "50th Reunion" last year and meet up with my friends again, but his stem-cell transplant date was too close to risk any pre-existing problems. He also had to miss his 50th high school reunion a week earlier and his college reunion that took place while he was in the Jefferson Isolation Ward. Mark is in remission and doing well on maintenance chemo. 

03/18/16 06:19 PM #10    

Barbara Singer (Unger)

     Joni and I became friends in Sunday school.  We went to different elementary and junior high schools, and in high school we were in different classes.  I remember that she wrote the beautiful words to our senior song.  Toward the end of our senior year, Joni approached me to ask if I thought my cousin, Jesse, would go to the prom with her.  I encouraged her to call him, even though he was a Pitt freshman.

     The rest is history!  We doubled to the senior prom and continued our friendship throughout our next four years at Pitt.  Joni was in Elementary Ed, and I was in the School of Nursing.  She and I were officers in our respective dorms, and we became active in AWS, the     women's organization.  We were in Lantern Night together, the special ceremony in the Cathedral of Learning held to honor and welcome freshman women.  I rushed sorority in my freshman year, while Joni didn't rush until her sophomore year.  We really wanted her to pledge our sorority, but, in the end, she decided not to join any sorority.  She said that it bothered her that the Greek system was such a selective process and that so many girls were hurt when they weren't asked to join.  That really showed an important aspect of Joni's personality.

    Joni and Jesse dated steadily at Pitt.  She became active in many organizations, and I loved when she played her guitar and sang folk songs on campus. She was nominated and won the title of "Miss Pitt" during our senior year.  It was such an honor, and she really deserved it!  Joni was the kind of person who attracted everyone.  She was so kind, outgoing, caring, and wonderful!

     After graduation in 1969, Joni and Jesse married. Their wedding was lovely!  Jesse was in Pitt Med School at the time, and Joni then began teaching kindergarten.  I didn't get to see much of them because I began working as a nurse at Magee Hospital and then was asked to join the Maternity Faculty at Pitt.  Jesse and Joni moved to Gainesville, FL, for Jesse's residency, and I moved to Cincinnati.  I saw them at family gatherings in Mt. Lebanon every once in a while.  They had two daughters, Julie and Elana, and I was fortunate to see them as toddlers.

     Jesse's field was Pediatric Hematology, and he and Joni moved to Phoenix where he accepted a position working with children with cancer.  Joni became very involved in her daughters' lives, their school activities, their after school sports, music, etc., PTA, and EVERYTHING that involved her family.  She also began to work at their local synagogue where she was Program Director for 21 years and on the Board of Directors for 11 years.

     As usual, Joni was a very active member of the community, and she was loved by all.  She made friends very easily because of her warm personality.  She loved music, as she played the violin in her younger years, and she continued with the piano and the guitar in Phoenix.  She loved to take her daughters to musicals and concerts, and music became a big part of their lives, as it was to hers.

     Joni's family was the most important part of her life.  She was very understanding with Jesse's career, and she was always understanding when his patients needed him.  Julie and Elana eventually went off to college, graduated, and established their own careers.  They married and had their own families.  Joni's grandchildren significantly impacted her life.  They were everything to her!

     Joni became very active in trying to find classmates for our 45th reunion.  She even won an award for her efforts.  More than four years ago, Joni got cancer.  As she has always been a very private person, she really tried to go on with her life as normally as she could.  She never complained, and she was always upbeat even if she was in pain.  Joni always had a smile!  She tried everything that her doctors suggested, and Jesse researched clinical trials that he thought would be of benefit to her.  She had such a positive outlook because she just didn't want to give up.  As her daughters said, she was their "forever warrior."

     Joni became too sick to come to our 50th reunion, but friends continued to contact her.  Her relatives kept in close touch with her, trying to cheer her on and always trying to give her hope.  Her grandchildren were her jewels, and they just kept her going and going like the Energizer Bunny.  At the end of February and the beginning of March, Joni's battle was just becoming too hard.  Her family and friends surrounded her always, and she was placed in hospice.  It was time to stop fighting, finally rest, and become free of the pain that had plagued her for the last two years.  Joni died peacefully on March 9, 2016.

    My husband, Irwin, and I flew from Florida to Phoenix.  Other relatives and friends came from Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Minnesota, and New York to honor and remember Joni.  We all knew that this weekend was going to be one of the most difficult of our lives.  It was a very surreal experience.  It was so hard to acccept that Joni was gone.  Her memorial service was lovely.  Her daughters, sons-in-law, and her young granddaughter spoke about her life and what she had meant to them and to others.  At the shiva service (a gathering of family and friends to give support), the Rabbi asked everyone to remember Joni by "paying it forward" and doing a good deed for someone, just as Joni would have done.

     As we all know, Joni Amdur Cohen was a very, very special person.  She ALWAYS put everyone before herself.  She was gentle, loving, and fun to be with.  I NEVER heard her say an unkind word about anyone!  She lived her life to the fullest and gave so much to those around her.  She lived and died with grace.  We will all miss her terribly, but at least we know that she is at peace and is not suffering anymore.



03/18/16 07:31 PM #11    

Elaine Silver-(Liberati)

Joni Amdur was a dear childhood friend and as all the respondents has stated was truly a jewel.  Thank you Barbara Singer Unger for capsulizing what an amazing sweet "mensch " and maven she was.  How beautifully the Rabbi honored her and gave us all ways to honor Joni.  

03/18/16 10:31 PM #12    

Barbara Wright (Renthal)

Thank you Barbie, for a moving recap of your memories of Joni and the information about her memorial service. I barely knew her in high school and yet can only smile when I hear her name. Maybe we were in some club together, but my memories of her are vary warm, 50 years later. I was so sorry to miss her memorial.

03/22/16 10:49 AM #13    

Jane Ellen Tumpson

I have been struggling with how to express my sorrow at Joni Amdur's passing.  Barbie Singer put it all together as she related her history with Joni, but I will echo some of her comments as they so eloquently paint the portrait I have in my mind of Joni.  I was in elementary school with Joni and remember her birthday parties so vividly...while others played pin the tail on the donkey, her mother set up memory games, name the presidents and states, and scavenger hunts.  No wonder Joni went into education with that role model!  I would walk from my house to Jefferson thru the backyards just to pass her house and see if she wanted to walk together.  But it was through our parents and Temple Emanuel that a more personal and enduring friendship with Joni was forged for me and others.  Our families celebrated holidays, life events, and reunions, official and unofficial.  I last saw Joni in Phoenix after she had been diagnosed several years ago.  She was optimistic and realistic, as always.  Yes, as all of you have recalled, she was personally responsible for tracking down so many MIA's in our class.  Once again her intelligence and perseverance paid off for others.  Joni was a beautiful person, inside and out.  Her smile infectious. Her integrity enviable. Her kindness unfailing.  Her capacity for love and zest for life so out there.  And, as Barbie said, I never heard her say an unkind word about anyone.  She will be missed by those of us who knew her well, even if we did not catch up with her often.  Rest peacefully, my friend.  JET 

03/22/16 12:45 PM #14    

Marjorie Fiedler (Samuels)

Marjorie Fiedler Samuels



Joni was an intelligent classy lady. We reconnected at the 45th reunion for which I know she did a lot of research.

We spent those endless days together in Sunday school! We attained all those goals together and have reached so many milestones since then. 

Her life was taken much too soon. 




03/28/16 08:45 PM #15    

Kathleen Peresman

I feel privileged to have known Joni and to have called her my friend.  She was an exceptional person.

Joni's life intertwined with mine in many ways.  We went to Emma Kaufmann camp together, sat in the back of our Sunday school classes going through her collection of lipsticks and she married Jessie, my next door neighbor.  Even though I only saw Joni occasionally in Los Angeles, I would always hear about what she was up to through her father-in-law and her sisters-in-law as they are like family to me.

I am so very sorry she is gone.  My heart goes out to her wonderful family.  May Joni rest in peace.

Kathy Peresman

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