August 5, 2009

This article originally appeared in the June 2005 issue of Lacrosse Magazine. Its subject, Peter Kohn, died Wednesday from complications of a heart attack. He was 77.

Click here to read Nathaniel Badder's column.

LM Archives: Red Carpet for Hall of Famer Kohn

by Matt DaSilva | Lacrosse Magazine Online Staff

US Lacrosse presented the debut of Keeper of the Kohn, a documentary about the late Peter Kohn, at Baltimore's historic Senator Theatre on April 28, 2005.

© John Strohsacker/

Starring Myron "Peter" Kohn.

His name straddled the marquee like that, for all to see. Across the street stood an old warehouse, Hochschild Kohn's first satellite store, a staple in the chain of department stores once owned by his father. The two buildings stared blankly at one another above the bustle of York Road, the irony of which was not lost on Peter Kohn -- who despite his disability is as keen as a Kohn can be.

"I've got a silver plate at home," Kohn said, "from when that store opened."

He fought so hard for his father's approval. Even if only in the form of two old Baltimore buildings, on this special night, he got it.

Lacrosse took a step back in time to celebrate on of the sport's most beloved characters, as US Lacrosse rolled out the red carpet for Peter Kohn and the premiere of his heralded documentary, Keeper of the Kohn, at Baltimore's historic Senator Theatre on April 28.

Produced by David Gaynes, the film touches deeply on Kohn's internal struggles as a developmentally disabled manager for the Middlebury College men's lacrosse team. From the playful scenes (Kohn's misguided search for lacrosse balls in the thorny thicket bushes) to the touching (Kohn kissing the gravestone of Bettie Crilly, a cancer-stricken companion with whom he stayed until the end) to the symbolic train sequences (Kohn counts the cars passing by) which string them together, the documentary made for a number of teary eyes among an estimated crowd of 300.

At the end of the screening, a former Middlebury player stood up in the theatre and yelled: "Hey Peter! What time is it?" Kohn's response, however, was not "time to beat Williams" or "time to bring home the bacon," as it might have been had the question been posed in the locker room before a lacrosse game. Instead, the night's honored dignitary replied: "It's time for me to tell all you people what you mean to me, and all the wonderful things you did for me over the years."

The feeling was mutual.

"I got to know Peter 35 years ago, through my association with [late Hall of Famer and Kohn companion] Jerry Schmidt. It does not take long for his qualities to surface," said Dave Urick, one of many notable coaches in attendance. "He's so dedicated to the younger kids. It was not uncommon for a kid to bring him home from camp without knowing anything about him beforehand, and then bringing him on vacation with his family."

In all likelihood, as the film captures brilliantly, Kohn would take that offer and travel via train with a bagful of disposable cameras -- hoping to add to his overtstuffed shelf of albums and memories. Perhaps more will arrive as a result of this documentary. The film, whose title refers to the Middlebury player designated each year to keep Kohn's company and look after him, was completed in November. That's when Schmidt's longtime campaign to get Kohn inducted into the Lacrosse Hall of Fame came to fruition, and Kohn was enshrined for his dedication to others. Schmidt passed away in June, just weeks before Kohn's nomination was accepted.

Keeper of the Kohn has won the jury award for best documentary at the 2005 Vail (Colo.) Film Festival and the audience choice award for the best documentary at this year's Palm Beach (Fla.) International Film Festival.

"You don't just dive into a project like this at your own expense without believing in your subject," Gaynes said of Kohn. "I love him."

Gaynes, a former TV reporter, said he is pitching the film to broadcast executives in hopes of having it televised nationally.

Kohn, 73, was manager of the U.S. national teams from 1978 to 1998, for the USILA's North-South All-Star Game for over 25 years, and for club teams in the United States Club Lacrosse Association for over 20 years. He was a member of the lacrosse staff at Middlebury from 1981 to 2003. He now resides with friends in Cape May, N.J.

"I don't want to be too big about myself," Kohn said, "but it was a great night."

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