SWAMPSCOTT – When asked how her career path had veered from early childhood education to a long career as a national advocate for animal welfare and rescue, Randi Lynne (Shapiro) Cohen would explain that children and animals both required patience and needed someone who would be their advocate.
She spent the first part of her career as a teacher, preferring to teach in an underserved school district in Lynn, before opening a travel agency in Salem with her husband Gerry Cohen. After the death of her husband, Mrs. Cohen started volunteering at Northeast Animal Shelter, helping her sister Cindi Shapiro, who founded the Shelter in 1976. Mrs. Cohen took on a variety of responsibilities before eventually becoming executive director.
Mrs. Cohen passed away peacefully early on the morning of April 26, 2018, of complications from a recently discovered heart condition. She was 75. She was a lifelong resident of Swampscott.
Mrs. Cohen was a graduate of Lasell College in Newton, where she earned her degree in early childhood education before she attended and graduated from Syracuse University in New York.
As a lifelong animal lover, Mrs. Cohen became a driving force at Northeast Animal Shelter, a no-kill shelter that has rescued more than 130,000 dogs and cats and placed them in loving homes throughout New England.
She helped expand the Shelter’s national advocacy for rescuing homeless animals who were unwanted and under the threat of being euthanized. When she received an urgent appeal during the Hurricane Isaac evacuation in Florida, she welcomed dozens of homeless dogs and then issued her own local appeal to residents, urging them to adopt those animals. “We’re in crisis mode and need families to save these dogs,” she wrote on the Shelter’s website.
“Randi loved life,” said her brother Donald Shapiro, a director of the Shelter. “Most of all, she loved her family. She encouraged them to work hard and find their own road to success.”
Mr. Shapiro said his sister became even more involved in the Shelter when it was expanded to increase the shelter’s capacity to rescue animals. “She often worked well past dinner time,” said Mr. Shapiro. “As a persuasive and impassioned advocate of helping homeless animals, she became the face of Northeast Animal Shelter. She was delighted when people she didn’t know would recognize her on the street after reading one of her carefully written fundraising appeals or seeing her on TV.”
Her oldest son, Greg Cohen, said “She was a Mom of Moms – always there for her family. She was one of the great listeners, an angel to many people and tens of thousands of rescued animals. She touched everyone with her positive attitude, ever-present smile, and ability to never let obstacles stand in her way.”
Her son Scott said of his mother: “She was the sweetest, most caring, compassionate woman, leader, and matriarch, that anyone could ever ask for. Her kind words, positive attitude, and endless love were sprinkled everywhere and left an indelible mark on everyone who was fortunate enough to be in her presence. She will be forever missed, but forever remembered!”
One of Mrs. Cohen’s many friends said, “Randi had such a presence, and her compassion was evident. She was the engine that made Northeast Animal Shelter run.” Another friend said “Randi’s three sons were everything to her, and her three grandchildren were the light of her life. She was happiest when surrounded by family.”
Mrs. Cohen is the third generation of the Shapiro family that founded Maryland Cup Corporation, a Fortune 500 company that produced disposable paper and plastic containers under the name “Sweetheart,” and ice cream cones under the name “Eat-It-All.”
Mrs. Cohen was predeceased by her loving husband Gerald K. Cohen, her father Samuel N. Shapiro, and her mothers Mae Rita Shapiro and Bernice Shapiro. She is survived by her three beloved sons Gregory and his wife Nancy (Einstein) of West Newton, Scott and his wife Dorian (Boomer) of Lincoln, and Michael and his fiancé Adrian Frandle of New York City; her brother Donald Shapiro and his wife Robin of Palm Beach Gardens, FL; her sister Cindi Shapiro and her husband Bruce Munson of Beverly; her three grandchildren Sydney Cohen, Jack Cohen, and Hunter Cohen; her seven nieces and nephews; and her eight grand-nieces and -nephews.
Funeral services were held on April 30, followed by a private burial. Donations in her name can be made to Northeast Animal Shelter (www.neas.org), 347 Highland Ave., Salem, MA 01970. Arrangements were handled by Stanetsky-Hymanson Memorial Chapel, Salem. For more information or to register in the online guestbook, visit www.stanetskyhymansonsalem.com.