Marian Cogen Leavitt

by | Feb 10, 2022 | Obituaries

Norfolk—Marian Cogen Leavitt was born November 24, 1927 in Portsmouth, Virginia to Maurice Cogen and Sarah Silverman Cogen. She died January 22, 2022 in the Memory Support Unit of Harbor’s Edge, Norfolk, where she had been a resident for five years.

She is survived by her husband of 70 years Sheldon Joseph Leavitt, sons Charles Hecht-Leavitt (Leslie) of Norfolk; Jonathan Leavitt (Maryjane) of Brookline, Mass.; and daughter Shirra Ann Leavitt of Santa Monica, Calif. Her son, David Ari Leavitt, died in 1979. She will be missed by her grandchildren Lily Anne Hecht-Leavitt (Anthony) of Norfolk; Zachary Singer-Leavitt (Julie) of East Greenwich, Rhode Islarnd, Anna Khan-Leavitt (Andy) of London, England, and Nate Leavitt of Chicago. She felt lucky to celebrate the births of her great-grandchildren Ari, Sam, Josie, and Talia. Her sister Harriet Bregman and brother Erwin Cogen died before her.

Her mother, Sarah Silverman, was one of nine siblings, and Marian grew up with dozens of first cousins in Virginia, Maryland, and West Virginia. The Silverman clan was a bustling Depression-Era extended family, and Marian maintained close relationships with them.

Marian was unusual in her time and place for graduating from college (BA journalism Ohio State) and completing graduate school in social work (MSW begun at the University of Chicago and completed at Virginia Commonwealth University). Her life was not easy. She experienced the murder of her father, the early death of a son, three cancer diagnoses, the death of her younger brother, bouts of depression, and mild traumatic brain injury. Yet she maintained a positive outlook on life. Her many friends appreciated her honesty and openness. Many looked to her as their mentor. She was a surrogate mother to several, including Marc Rabinowitz and Bonnie Gordon-Rabinowitz.

Marian, with her friend Joan Hecht, was an early advocate of mindfulness meditation. She supported early childhood education, family life education in public schools, and voting rights. She was a regular swimmer until TBI made that too difficult. Marian was an accomplished worker in clay and shared a studio in Norfolk’s d’Art Center. After cancer surgery restricted that activity, she took up beading and made beautiful necklaces for her fortunate family and friends. She memorialized David Leavitt in the collection of her poetry Mourning Sickness.

In her 60s she attended Clown School with a girlfriend. Zach, Lily, and Charles marched and clowned with her in the annual Doo-Dah Parade in downtown Norfolk, finishing with a late lunch at the Harbor Club in full clown regalia. She went on African safari with a girlfriend. For many years, during two weeks each summer, she sailed with her husband and their dear friends Ronnie and Marcus Friedman on the Chesapeake Bay, and later in the Caribbean and Aegean seas. Into her 70’s, the dance floor at The Harbor Club would clear when Marian and Sheldon stepped out to dance their double-time jitterbug.

A family graveside service took place at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Norfolk. COVID concerns precluded a wider public event. Please write or record a favorite memory of Marian, and post it on the H.D. Oliver Funeral Apts. website ( to share with her family and friends. Contributions can be made to Jewish Family Service, Virginia League for Planned Parenthood, or the League of Women Voters of South Hampton Roads.