Play Date


071814_beshert1Karen & Josh Kohn
First Date: Feb. 14, 1981, at a Chinese restaurant in Wheaton, Md.
Wedding Date: Sept. 24, 1989
Venue: Camp Airy in Thurmont, Md.
Residence: Westminster, Md.
Favorite Activity: Hang gliding and walking their Boston Terrier, Scooter

Karen Neal and Josh Kohn met in kindergarten.

“I have a vivid memory of him playing with baby chickens,” she said. “He was a cutie pie.”

Josh remembers her always in a dress with tights.

“She was a very delicate, dainty little girl,” said Josh.

They didn’t reconnect until their senior year at Northwood High School in Kemp Mill. Josh was the ultimate overachiever, a standout on the football and baseball teams and a member of the school’s orchestra. He also was a member of the choir.

“He was a catch,” Karen said.

As luck would have it, Karen also was in the choir, and her friends prodded her to ask Josh to the Sadie Hawkins dance. Instead, they got Josh to ask Karen out on her 18th birthday.

When they arrived at the restaurant, her friends were waiting to surprise her. Karen flailed her arms in excitement and nailed Josh in the stomach. Later, they attended the prom together and within a few months professed their love.

“We are alike in a lot of ways, the way we think about things,” said Karen. “I knew he was the one.”

Karen joined Monna and Sherwood Kohn to send Josh off to the University of Arizona that fall. She cried the entire way home. They racked up long-distance bills and wrote letters. Karen kept many of them, and she still treasures the rose petal Josh laminated and sent to her. The rose petal traveled back and forth in their cards and letters to each other that year.

071814_beshert2Josh transferred to the University of Maryland, where Karen studied graphic design. The Kohns and Jack and Mary Ellen Neal pressured them to date other people. Each tried over the next few years, but that only reinforced their outlook on the future.

In May 1989, after dinner and the symphony, they went for drinks and dessert, and Josh proposed.

They visited Camp Airy in Thurmont, excited to share the news with Ed Cohen, the director. Josh had been a counselor and unit leader there. Cohen insisted they marry at camp.

Family stayed in the cabins, and the rehearsal dinner and reception were catered. Rabbi Floyd Herman performed the ceremony. Karen, who grew up Methodist, attended introduction to Judaism classes and considers herself “practically Jewish.” especially after working at The Associated for eight years. She’s now a visual arts teacher in Carroll County.

“It’s (about) our sense of Judaism,” said Josh, who owns Kohn Creative. “You don’t have to belong to a synagogue to be Jewish. It’s tradition, ways of thought, history.”

They honeymooned in Kitty Hawk, N.C. Ben was born in February 1995, and Grace was born in April 1997.

As they approach their 25th anniversary, at 51, both say their long partnership is based on honesty and open communication.

“He’s my best friend,” said Karen.

Linda L. Esterson is an Owings Mills-based freelance writer. For “Beshert,” call 410-902-2305 or email

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