Devoted mother, beloved wife of the late drama critic Nathan Cohen. Born Sept. 2, 1922, in Toronto, died July 22, 2012, in Toronto of old age, at 89.
Gloria Brontman was the youngest of five children, the daughter of immigrant parents. She was well educated, well read and, above all, full of love.
Music was her great passion until Dad came along. She played double piano duets with one sister, and was only 20 when she completed her masters in musicology in Michigan. At university, she was a big-band singer.
She loved to dance. And Dad, who couldn’t, would watch with admiration as she cut a rug with one of her brothers-in-law at family events.
She loved politics and debate – couldn’t live without the news. Her seven-year-old granddaughter once scolded her, “Bubbie, you’re a news chunkie!”
When mothers were making Icelandic sweaters, she sat down and knitted until her hands bled, making two sweaters in one week – then handed them to us saying, “I’m never doing that again!”
Although never formally trained, she became a teacher and counsellor to young people, and all of us learned from her about writing, preparing for exams, critical thinking and debate.
And she loved reading. Even as her strength faded, when she rarely talked, she still came alive at the nursing-home spelling bee.
Mom and Dad met in 1947, when he was working for a Yiddish weekly and she at a women’s magazine. He said she was the only blonde he ever loved. He always said that she was the critic of the family. He wouldn’t send in a column until she had given it the once-over.
Our best memory of her difficult last months was on Mother’s Day. We took her up close to hear a concert by Daniel Domb, former principal cellist of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. She listened, and when he asked her how she had enjoyed it, she turned to us and approvingly whispered: “He plays well.”
But most of all, the story of Gloria Brontman and Nathan Cohen is a great love story. Both were passionate, intellectual and shared a love for the arts and a powerful sense of the importance of family.
Gloria was the woman behind the man, the keeper of the family, a woman he cherished and admired. And he said so, again and again, in the many letters he wrote before and during their marriage.
When he died in 1971, Gloria never really recovered from his loss.
So his words, taken from letters sent while he was working overseas, feel especially poignant:
“Receive this letter which comes to you with bottomless and inexhaustible love. … I’ll tell you a secret. My love, my own, I hope you miss me one fraction as much as I miss you. I hope you are well, and that you are thinking of me.”
Gloria was thinking of him. To the very end, whenever we would ask, “Did you dream, Mum? What did you dream about?” her reply would never vary.
“About Daddy,” she would answer.
Phyllis and Susan Cohen are Gloria’s daughters.
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