Eleanor (Ellie) Cohen Jacobs
July 25, 1929 – August 25, 2020
Eleanor Cohen Jacobs, resident of Litchfield, CT, died at age 91 in her home on August 25th. Throughout her life, Eleanor was a painter, businesswoman, entrepreneur, writer, and art consultant.
Born in 1929 in the Bronx, NY, Eleanor was raised by Polish-Jewish immigrant parents. After graduating from high school in 1946, she moved to Manhattan where she became a secretary in The Teaching of Social Sciences Department at Columbia University Teachers College.
After three years, Eleanor joined J. Walter Thompson Advertising Agency where she worked as a Copywriter-in-Training on accounts including Shell Oil, Ford Motor Company, and Pan Am. She stayed at the agency until 1958. What she learned from the agency’s creative, funny, and smart writers remained with her for the rest of her life.
In 1953, Eleanor met Raymond Jacobs at Stanbrook Riding Ranch in Rhinebeck, NY. Raymond was an innovative man and brilliant photographer. They fell in love and after a two-year courtship, married in 1955. Their daughter Susan was born in 1959, and Laura in 1962.
Eleanor and Raymond’s relationship was filled with encouragement, artistic exploration, and adventure. In 1953, while Raymond was studying photography with the renowned street photographer Lisette Model, Eleanor joined Lisette’s husband, Evsa Model’s painting classes, where she remained for ten years. This was her first formative art education experience; her passion for art was ignited.
Eleanor was by Raymond’s side throughout his successful, award-winning career as a commercial advertising and reportage photographer during the late 1950’s and 1960’s. Together, they travelled to Mexico, Canada, Cuba, and Europe. The Museum of Modern Art purchased one of his photographs for its seminal Family of Man exhibition and accompanying book. Eleanor said that from her marriage to Raymond and exposure to his work, “It was as though I received the equivalent of a Ph.D. in understanding the meaning of creative imagery as well as the beauty of fine photographic printing.”
In the summer of 1969, while on a family vacation in Europe, Eleanor purchased a pair of Kalsø shoes in Copenhagen, Denmark. This changed their lives forever. Impressed by the design and unique comfort of the shoe that cured her life-long back pain, Eleanor and Raymond acquired the U.S. distribution rights from Anna Kalsø, the shoe’s inventor.
On April 22, 1970, the couple opened the first Earth Shoe store on East 17th Street in Manhattan. Unbeknownst to them, this was also the first Earth Day, and a celebration was being held down the block in Union Square Park. This coincidence led them to instantly change the name from Kalsø Shoes to Earth Shoes, placing a new hand-written sign in the store window. A name change and simple sign instantly branded the shoe. Flower children poured into the store from that day forward as Earth Shoes became a counter-culture symbol of the 1970’s and a global phenomenon.
A media frenzy started after the Whole Earth Catalogue featured Earth Shoes; the mainstream and business media followed. Actor Orson Bean wore the shoes on Johnny Carson’s “The Tonight Show.” Earth Shoes were in Time magazine’s billboards at Grand Central Terminal and bus stops throughout the city. The ad read, “Time – Where the Earth Shoe Fits Naturally.” A pair of Earth Shoes is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s permanent shoe collection, representing an iconic example of the decade.
Eleanor served as Co-Founder and Vice President of Advertising, Public Relations, and Communications. The company expanded to 123 shops across the United States, Canada, and Europe until it was dissolved in 1977.
Eleanor’s love of photography and art led her to New York University’s Gallatin School of Independent Studies. In 1971, while working full-time and raising a family she enrolled in classes. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Art History and received a “Founders Day” Award at her graduation in 1979.
In 1978, Eleanor and Raymond opened the Art Appreciation Gallery in New York City where she remained until joining the Print Department of Sotheby’s Auction House as Art Administrator. In 1982, she moved to CARE International, where she worked as an Executive Assistant until 1984.
Following CARE, Eleanor returned to the art world, joining Hirschl & Adler Galleries as Executive Administrator to the President until Raymond passed away in 1993, at which point Eleanor became a freelance art consultant. In 2010, she relocated full-time to Litchfield, CT.
Eleanor’s passion for art manifested beyond her career. She was a member of the National Arts Club in New York City for over 4 decades, where she served as a governor, initiated and wrote the Club’s first-ever Exhibiting Artists’ Newsletter for ten years, and volunteered on the Exhibitions, Curatorial, and Admissions Committees. She was also a member of Artists’ Fellowship, National Trust for Historic Preservation, and Dutch Treat Club.
In civic life, Eleanor was active in the Litchfield Democratic Town Committee and League of Women Voters. Many of her humorous personal essays and letters to the editor were published in the Litchfield County Times. Eleanor is listed in Who’s Who in the World, Who’s Who in America, and Who’s Who of American Women.
Eleanor is survived by her two daughters, Susan Jacobs of Brooklyn, NY and Laura Pavlick of Litchfield, CT, her son-in-law David Pavlick, and grandchildren, Jenn and Jimmy Pavlick of Litchfield, CT.
On Saturday, September 12, a COVID-compliant farewell will be held from 11:00am-2:00pm at La Cupola Restaurant, 637 Bantam Road, Bantam, CT.