I discovered the Cohen-Bray House when I volunteered to help with cataloging the collection.
I learned how to use new software programs, PastPerfect and then Catalogit (much easier). Then, I
started helping out in the garden, becoming the “Rose Queen” of Cohen-Bray.
Eventually, the Victorian Preservation Center of Oakland (VPCO) needed a new Board Member.
Having kept the books at a law firm for 14 years, I volunteered to act as Treasurer. Having also taught science to 9th graders for 5 years, I've offered to help with the field trips.
I visit the Cohen-Bray House once or twice a week. There’s always a great variety of things
that need to be done. It keeps it fun and interesting for me. I have also met some new friends along the way.
Great granddaughter of the original family
Coming to the House to visit my great Aunt Emelita here at this house, was always a special occasion. It took until my 20s to realized that this place was unique. Not just the home my grandfather was raised in. This place deserves to be preserved for the future. My background is in Interpretation, I've worked training teachers and Docents for the City of Berkeley for 38 years Teaching about the Bay increased my appreciation of this area and its history. I've been on the Save S.F Bay Board, The Aquatic Outreach Board and the V.P.C.O. board since its inception.
My interest here is the house is to preserve it as a study center, where everyone can teach each other, and learn about this time capsule. We need to learn how to preserve it, and can use your help. I love to learn and everyday is a new experience.
I have lived in Oakland for twenty five years and the old parts of the city are one of the things I love the most about it. I came to Cohen Bray as a volunteer - helping to catalog our decade-spanning clothing collection - and was thrilled to get to spend time inside such a grand old house.
I joined the board in 2018 and, as a technical writer for software, am the unofficial tech support of the group.
I love the way that the community gets to enjoy our property through tours, teas, volunteering, and picnics in the garden; and I love the dedicated folks of all stripes that I have gotten to meet.
The house is a beautiful, living space and I am so lucky to get to be a part of the community that works tirelessly to maintain it.
house & Collections manager
Nancy Donald is also a Great Granddaughter of the house
and is Patty's sister. Nan retired from Teaching * years ago and has dedicated her time and energy to the house. She has been managing the collections, volunteers, admin duties and so much more.
Past President- Advisor
I think that I would like people to know that I love historic houses and have restored and lived in 3 of them for about the past 40 years, that I was very involved in preservation in Berkeley, then Alameda, and now at the Cohen-Bray House in Oakland, and that I love doing research and discovering new things.
I always loved old houses, especially when visiting both of my grandparent’s houses in SF when I was a child. I really got hooked on old houses when I moved to Berkeley in 1975 and bought a 1921 prairie-style house on the north side in 1977. I learned a lot from Trish Hawthorne’s walking tours for BAHA. Then I began doing research myself, first on my Berkeley house, and then our Alameda house. My wife Cathy Ferron and I fell in love with Victorian houses when we bought one in Alameda, and later in San Rafael; we raised our 2 children in our historic 1891 shingled Victorian.
Board member John Michael "Mike" Reidenbach died unexpectedly at home on December 2. Mike was the oldest great-grandchild of the Cohens, and the only one to be born in Emma's Bray Cohen's lifetime.
When her daughter Emelita informed Emma of his birth, she replied "Now I'm Granny the great!". His grandmother was the second Cohen daughter, Marion Cohen Gilliland.
Mike realized as Emelita grew older that the question of what would become of the house would need to be addressed. Using his expertise as lawyer, he rallied all the various family owners to keep the house and contents intact, and form a non-profit to protect and preserve it. Without his firm vision the house would not exist as the treasure it is. He was the first president of the VPCO during its formative years. After a long break, he rejoined the board two years ago after his retirement. He had hoped to help the organization reach the level necessary to sustain the house through the years ahead.
His children have requested that any memorial gifts be given to the Cohen Bray House.
His full obituary is available on the link below