Gerald L. Cogan ’50

Gerald L. Cogan ’50 died on September 10, 2021, in Portland, Oregon.

(The following was published by The Oregonian on September 15, 2021)

Gerald L. Cogan ’50

Gerald Cogan, a long-time resident of Portland, passed away on September 10, 2021, about one month shy of his 92nd birthday.

Gerald Lee Cogan was born on October 7, 1929, the third of six children of Anne and David Cogan of Bath, Maine. The family belonged to Beth Israel Congregation where Gerald became Bar Mitzvah. Gerald graduated from Morse High School in 1946 and then attended Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine for two years, and continued his studies at the University of Portland after the whole family moved to Portland, Oregon in 1948. He went on to pursue a career in dentistry, receiving his DMD from OHSU School of Dentistry in 1953. He married Zadell Joy Myerson in 1952. In 1953, he joined the army and served as an army dentist in Texas and Maryland.

After his army service, Gerald returned to Portland and started a dental practice with Dr. Duane Paulson. Dr. Eugene Skourtes later joined the practice. In 1970, the three dentists founded Willamette Dental Group. Gerald was a pioneer in creating dental plans that emphasized preventive care, which was a departure from the traditional fee-for-service model of care. The first free-standing Willamette Dental clinic was built on Jefferson Street in Portland and opened in 1976. The practice expanded to the large clinic system it is today, with over 50 clinics in multiple states.

Gerald was part of a large extended family on both east and west coasts, and together with Zadell raised four children in their house in northwest Portland: Laurie Cogan, Deborah Cogan, Marjorie Cogan, and Daniel Cogan. He has two grandchildren, Cory Hoffman and Emma Cogan. Gerald is also survived by his brother Arnold and his sisters Carol and Judy.

Gerald was an active and enthusiastic supporter of Democratic party politics, serving as campaign manager for several Democratic candidates. He also represented Oregon on the Democratic National Committee for eight years and attended three Democratic National Conventions. He was a member of an organization called The Campaigners, with whom he wrote and performed in satirical comedy songs and sketches put on to raise funds for Democratic causes. He was also a strong supporter of the creation of Emily’s List, which raises funds for women in the Democratic Party who are running for office.

He contributed to the community in numerous other ways. He was a leader in the successful campaign to fluoridate the water in Portland to reduce tooth decay.  He practiced pro bono dentistry in low-income communities. He was active in the Portland City Club. He served as president of his synagogue, Congregation Neveh Shalom, for two years. He was an early opponent of the Vietnam War and participated in several protests.

Gerald had a great appreciation of the English language. He enjoyed writing and tried his hand at writing plays and screenplays, sending some of them in to Hollywood. In recent years, his pet project was his writing a book exploring the special significance of the Preamble to the United States Constitution. In earlier years, he acted in several plays in local Portland theater venues. He also proudly competed in the State of Oregon Senior Spelling Bee and won first place in 2000.

He also loved Oregon’s great outdoors and often took his children on hikes in nearby Macleay Park and parks in the greater Portland area such as Eagle Creek, as well as cross-country skiing on Mt Hood. He spent vacations with his family at Rockaway Beach and at Crescent Lake, Oregon, and always looked forward to the many fly-fishing trips he took over the years.

As a sports fan, Gerald enjoyed taking his children to many sporting events to see the Portland Beavers, Buckaroos, and Trailblazers. He was a lover of opera, Broadway musicals, and comedy.

Among his other hobbies was the making of many home movies. Some of the best remembered were trick movies with home-grown special effects.

Gerald also loved blueberries and made it his project to become skilled at baking anything and everything with blueberries—muffins, pies, and more.

Add a Reminiscence:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *