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Local New Yorker cartoonist remembered ‘Out with his boots on’: Friends and colleagues reflect on the vigorous life of Ed Koren

By Paul Heintz/VTDigger

As the son of a dentist, David Remnick spent plenty of time in his youth flipping through the pages of the New Yorker in his father’s waiting room. 

“Among the most visually recognizable artists of my growing up was Ed Koren,” Remnick said. “He was on the cover. He was in the magazine, constantly. He was an artist that a child could understand and yet came from the most adult sophistication.”

When Remnick landed at the New Yorker in 1992 — three decades after Koren sold his first cartoon to the magazine — he “made it (his) business to kind of bump into this guy” who’d loomed so large in his mind since childhood. 

“And he was as advertised,” said Remnick, who has served as editor of the New Yorker since 1998. “He was sophisticated, but he was also immensely generous and sweet and kind and all those things. There wasn’t an ungenuine bone in his body.”

Koren died last Friday at his home in Brookfield. He was 87 years old. 

In his final years, as he reckoned with lung cancer and associated health setbacks, Koren could no longer keep the pace he’d set as a surprisingly spritely octogenarian — skiing and cycling throughout Vermont, dancing the night away at weddings, jetting off to Paris and, famously, serving on the Brookfield Volunteer Fire Department.

But according to friends and colleagues, Koren still managed to do much of what he loved most — working away in his studio, swapping stories with old pals and spending time with his beloved wife, Curtis.

His final cartoon — depicting Moses holding up the Ten Commandments, with the caption, “Time for an update!” — appeared in the New Yorker the very week he died.  

“He went out with his boots on,” said the cartoonist and graphic novelist Alison Bechdel. “It’s incredible.”

James Sturm, a cofounder of the White River Junction-based Center for Cartoon Studies, visited Koren regularly in recent months and recalled the artist trying to offload books from his collection. “You’d pull a few and he’d say, ‘Not that one. I might still read that one.’” 

Koren’s death may not have come as a surprise, Sturm said, but it was nevertheless “heart-wrenching.” 

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