Edward V. Coolahan, 88, mechanical engineer shared love of woodworking

May 22, 2006|By NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON | NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON,SUN REPORTER

Edward V. Coolahan, a retired mechanical engineer and woodworking enthusiast, died of congestive heart failure Tuesday at St. Joseph Medical Center. He was 88.

Born and raised in Baltimore, Mr. Coolahan attended Mount St. Joseph High School and studied aeronautical design at the Maryland Institute College of Art.

Mr. Coolahan founded Center Mechanical Contractors in Baltimore in 1963, and worked on jobs at what is now 1st Mariner Arena, Bancroft Hall at the U.S. Naval Academy, St. Agnes Hospital and Pittsburgh Plate Glass Co. in Cumberland.

"He always told me that he never worked on the design, but anything in the building that moved, he worked on it," said his wife of 53 years, the former Helen Eckhart. "He loved working with his hands."

In 1983, Mr. Coolahan retired and began to focus on his woodworking hobby and develop his interest in drawing. Most days, he could be found at the Towson Bykota Senior Center woodshop, where he spent 20 years honing his craft. He drew designs for the center's computer and exercise rooms.

Mr. Coolahan also made dollhouses for his two daughters and for needy children. He built a replica of Tara, the antebellum mansion in Gone With the Wind, that was raffled off for charity. He also built model sailboats - his last one was a gift to his wife that he named My Helen.

"He was always a man that loved woodworking, and when he retired that gave him a chance to do what he wanted with his hands," said Mrs. Coolahan. "He made whales and little hearts and jewelry boxes for his grandkids."

He also made puppet stages for his teacher-daughter's elementary pupils and three-dimensional puzzle maps. Mr. Coolahan shared his hobby and expertise with his neighbors in the Edenwald Retirement Community in Towson, as he took on handyman jobs for them like shellacking Lazy Susans, repairing air conditioners and painting end tables. At home he made small boxes for stamps, picture frames and clocks, which he gave away.

Mr. Coolahan also loved calculus, tutoring students around exam time.

"He was a man who loved to challenge things," Mrs. Coolahan said. "I always used to tell him that if a river ran north, he would stand there and study it and find a way to make it run south."

Mr. Coolahan also loved traveling, touring Mexico, Europe and Africa with his wife.

Services were Saturday at Towson United Methodist Church.

In addition to his wife and his daughters, Jennie Marie Mueller of Westminster and Carole Custer of Halethorpe, Mr. Coolahan is survived by a sister, Ellen Stefansson of Crofton; a brother, William Coolahan of Egg Harbor, N.J.; five grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.

nia.henderson@baltsun.com

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