COHON, George A. - C.C. O.Ont - We are sad to share that on November 24, 2023, George Cohon passed away peacefully at his home in Toronto, surrounded by what he referred to as his greatest treasure - his family.
He is survived by his wife, Susan; their two sons, Craig and Mark; their daughter-in-law, Suzanne; their beloved grandchildren, Jonas, Amber and Parker; his dear sister, Sandy Raizes; and his adored nieces and nephews.
Born in Chicago on April 19, 1937, to Carolyn and Jack Cohon, George graduated from Northwestern Law school in 1961.
Despite his long list of accomplishments, George will testify his greatest achievement in life happened when he convinced Susan, his fellow Northwestern graduate, to go on their first date.
Three months later, they toasted their engagement and shortly thereafter, their wedding on September 4, 1960.
After graduating, he was drafted into the U.S. Air Force before returning to Chicago to join his father's small law firm of Cohon & Raizes.
As a young lawyer, George's career would change forever when he represented a client in negotiations with Ray Kroc, Founder of McDonald's.
Ray saw that spark and ambition that came to define George and brought the 30-year-old lawyer into McDonald's as the first international licensee obtaining the franchise for eastern Canada.
In 1968, George's first McDonald's opened in London, Ontario, George and Susan and their two young sons embarked on a new life in a new country. One restaurant became a thriving national business that opened opportunities for Canadians coast to coast as George steadily built the nation's largest quick service chain.
In 1973, George became a proud Canadian citizen. Driven by his deep-rooted dedication and love of his family, George founded and devoted himself with energy and passion to Ronald McDonald House Charities Canada, ensuring that families under the most challenging of times were able to be together.
George understood the responsibility to give back to the community, and was a tireless and passionate ambassador for RMHC throughout his life as an incredibly persuasive fundraiser and a frequent visitor, who spent time comforting the many families who called a Ronald McDonald House their home away from home.
Without knowing a word of Russian, George made lifelong friends with some of the most modern thinkers of the former USSR. Aleksander Yakolev and Mikael Gorbachev trusted and respected him, as they shared George's vision for a Russia that engaged collaboratively with the western world.
In 1990, after years of determination and against enormous odds, his dream was fulfilled with the opening of McDonald's in Pushkin Square. McDonald's was one of the most recognized, celebrated, and successful businesses in history to enter Russia, culminating with George receiving Russia's Order of Friendship from President Boris Yeltsin.
Regardless of his faith, he helped save Toronto's iconic Santa Claus Parade, recognizing the parade as a beacon of celebration, family and togetherness. He also chaired the Ontario Science Centre and Israeli Bonds Canada.
The greatest thank you to George came from Canada itself. Inducted to the Order of Canada in his early 50's, this past August, George was promoted to the level of Companion to the Order of Canada - the most prestigious and coveted honour a civilian can be granted in their lifetime.
The man who spoke with presidents and prime ministers, and whose optimism transformed what seemed to be an unchangeable world, was happiest and most content, sitting under the loggia at his Palm Beach home and cruising on McHappy III with his family.
Husband, father, grandfather, brother, uncle, businessman, philanthropist, friend, mentor, jokester, boater, cyclist, tennis player - the list goes on and on. For everyone that crossed his path, shook his hand, read his book, laughed at his jokes, cashed in his business card for a Big Mac - he will be missed beyond measure. George, in leaving this world, know that you were loved by everyone you encountered and when you pass the Golden Arches in the sky, have a Big Mac Extra Value Meal for all of us.
A service will be held on Tuesday, November 28, 2023, at 11:00 a.m. from Holy Blossom Temple, 1950 Bathurst Street, Toronto. Please check www.benjamins.ca for the link to stream the service. Interment to follow.
The family will be receiving family and friends back at Holy Blossom Temple from 3:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. for shiva.
In celebration of George's life and in honour of his lasting legacy as the founder and forever champion of families with sick children across Canada, the Cohon family asks that in lieu of flowers, donations be directed to Ronald McDonald House Charities Canada (www.rmhccanada.ca).