The son of Lithuanian Jewish immigrants, Cohen was born on the family’s tobacco farm in Glastonbury, where he lived until 1926, when the family moved to Hartford’s North End. There, he attended the Arsenal School and Hartford Public High School.
Cohen was studying engineering in California when a serious illness forced him to drop out. Instead, in 1939, he took a job as a laborer with the Army Corps of Engineers’ levee-building project along the Connecticut River. After a year, he was hired by the Town of East Hartford engineering department as a surveyor and project inspector. In 1945, Cohen finished his degree at Columbia University and took a job working with the Army Corps of Engineers. He did the surveying for Bradley Air Force Base in Windsor Locks, and then worked for a contractor on a low-cost housing project in Hartford.
He was then hired by Hardesty and Hanover, a bridge and design firm in New York, and worked on the Cross Bronx Expressway and on the renovation of Ebbets Field in Brooklyn.
When the projects came to an end, he joined Ammann & Whitney, where he worked for nearly 50 years. As the Atomic Age dawned in the ‘50s, Cohen and the firm were instrumental in developing design protocols for structures subject to atomic blasts and radiation, testing them in Nevada and the Pacific.
In addition to his work on the Statue of Liberty, he oversaw many landmark projects, among them the restoration of New York’s Verrazano Narrows Bridge and George Washington Bridge in New York, and the Capitol Building in Washington D.C. He also oversaw the criteria for the Washington D.C. subway system.
He wrote landmark papers in concrete design, wind engineering and blast analysis which have greatly advanced civil and structural engineering including and oversaw the development of building codes and standards which continue to influence engineering design and practice today. He was the CEO of Ammann & Whitney, famous throughout the world for its bridge designs, a member of the National Academy of Engineering and much more. He won innumerable medals for his work, including one of which he was especially proud, awarded to him by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for wartime civilian engineering service – for which he volunteered after a heart condition made him unfit for military service during World War II.
Of his work restoring the Statue of Liberty, Cohen told the New York Times in 1985, ”We found it wasn’t just a matter of cosmetics, We just couldn’t buy her a new dress and dab on some new makeup. We had to fix her internal problems,” some of them dating back to the original construction in the 1880s.
The rededication, on July 4, 1986, marked the monument’s 100th anniversary and was presided over by Pres. Reagan and French President Francois Mitterand.
“The reopening [of the Statue of Liberty] was fantastic,” Cohen told the Ledger in a February 2011 interview. “They had the biggest fireworks I ever saw, and debris from the fireworks was falling on us. There was a special orchestral work performed and a black-tie dinner. I got part of a bottle of Louis XVI brandy, given to me by the head of Rémy Martin.”
Edward Cohen is survived by his children, James Cohen of Richboro, Penn., and Libby Cohen Wallace and her husband Ben and their children of West Hartford, his second wife Carol Kalb Cohen, his brother Alexander Cohen of Newington, and his sister Sonia Cohen of South Windsor. He was predeceased in 2014 by his eldest son, Samuel Cohen.