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The Brooklin selectman who died last weekend in a murder-suicide had a long history of public service, worked in the public relations field and had once been Bangor’s mayor.
William M. “Bill” Cohen, 75, and his wife Pamela Cohen, 71, were found dead Sunday in their home near Naskeag Point, according to Maine State Police. Aside from identifying them by name on Tuesday and saying they died in a murder-suicide, police have released little information about the Cohens’ deaths.
In addition to his tenure as a Brooklin selectman, Bill Cohen also served six years on the Bangor City Council, according to records kept at Bangor City Hall. Cohen also wrote on his LinkedIn page that he served as president of the Bangor Region Chamber of Commerce in 1988.
Bill Cohen had been active in all the communities where he worked and stayed in the public eye in local politics even after he retired.
Most recently, in addition to serving as chair of the Brooklin select board, he was also on the Island Nursing Home board of directors and active with the Friend Memorial Public Library in Brooklin.
“Bill … brought exactly what one would expect from him: thoughtful analysis, unique thinking, new ideas, a sensible approach and a lot of passion for his work,” said Leon Weed, president of the nursing home’s board of directors.
Bill Cohen was first elected to Bangor City Council in November 1989 and served through November 1995. He was also appointed by the council as the city’s mayor in November 1991 and served in that role through November 1992, according to Bangor city records.
He was the second Bill Cohen to serve on the Bangor City Council and to hold the position of mayor. William S. Cohen, who later became a U.S. Senator and then Secretary of Defense, sat on the city council from 1969 to 1972 and held the position of mayor during his last year on the council, from 1971 to 1972, according to city records.
The Cohens moved to Brooklin full time in 2006 after spending weekends for many summers at their home near scenic Naskeag Point, according to the Ellsworth American.
Among the large businesses in Maine that Bill Cohen worked for as a spokesman were power company Bangor Hydro and then Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in the 1990s and early 2000s. In 2004, he left the health care company and became spokesperson for the paper mill in Bucksport, first under International Paper and then for Verso.
Bill Cohen retired from the corporate world when the Bucksport mill shut down permanently in 2015, and was elected to the Brooklin Select Board that same year.
“Everyone that knew him and Pam is completely shocked and dismayed at this event,” David Reiley, also a Brooklin Select Board member, said Tuesday. “No one in their wildest dreams would have imagined anything like this.”
The Cohens were members of Congregation Beth Israel, a Jewish synagogue in Bangor. The synagogue will hold a funeral service for the Cohens at 1 p.m. Friday, July 7, at the Jewish Funeral Chapel in Bangor, with burial to follow at the synagogue’s cemetery, Beth Israel officials said Wednesday.
Police have not revealed any information about what may have contributed to the Cohens’ deaths last weekend, including who is suspected of killing the other.
Shannon Moss, spokesperson for Maine Department of Public Safety, said Wednesday that the Cohens’ bodies were found Sunday by a relative. She declined to answer several other questions asking for more specific information on the Cohens’ deaths.
“This is still an active investigation and even though no one will face prosecution, the circumstances surrounding what happened and why are still being investigated,” Moss said.
UPDATE: The story has been updated to clarify Cohen’s length of service on the council.