Ely Cohen, Teacher from UFT
* Retired teacher
Ely Cohen, 88, had a distinguished career as a history and English teacher before coming out of retirement to help shape the UFT’s Si Beagle Learning Centers for retired members.
“My dad loved being part of the UFT — every aspect of it,” Suzanne Wycoff said of her father, who died on May 24 after 65 years as a member of the union.
Ely began his teaching career at James Fenimore Cooper JHS in Manhattan, where he taught English and history. He had several other teaching positions, including at Lafayette HS in Brooklyn. He concluded his Department of Education career as an administrator of the GED Program, Auxiliary Services.
“He was a wonderfully talkative presence in union activities, especially in behalf of retirees,” Retired Teachers Chapter Leader Tom Murphy said. “He cared about his colleagues and always acted in behalf of UFT organizational and political solidarity. Ely always did the maximum to make sure the union put its best face forward.”
The RTC gave Ely its Edith Potter/Anne Reel Award in 2016 in recognition of his commitment to lifelong learning.
John Soldini, a former union vice president for academic high schools, recalled when Cohen came out of retirement to open the Si Beagle Learning Center on Staten Island and serve as its coordinator.
“It became his creation and over the decades he managed its growth to the level it is today,” Soldini said. “Besides running the center, he freely gave of his time to be involved in whatever the UFT was currently endeavoring to establish.”
Soldini said Ely “always reminded everyone why it was necessary to form a union and especially why it was important to maintain retirees as active members and participants in union affairs.” And he was a large presence in the union’s early years at UFT picket lines, protests and rallies.
Audrey Zimring was teaching a retiree class on Staten Island when Ely tabbed her to become his co-coordinator.
“He was a wonderful mentor and shared his more than 20 years of experience easily,” said Zimring, still one of the borough’s co-coordinators. “He was kind and generous, both personally and professionally. He treated everyone with respect.”
Zimring recalled that Ely was “a very bright and well-read guy who could talk to anyone intelligently on any subject. He made friends easily and kept them.”
Before his career in education, Ely served in the U.S. Army and was stationed in Korea. He loved reading The New York Times, going to museums and Broadway shows, and he “loved everything New York City,” his daughter, Suzanne, said.
In addition to his daughter, Ely is survived by his wife of 63 years, Miriam; his son, David; and his grandchildren, Violet and Jakob Cohen and Jacqie, Abbie and Becca Wycoff.
Condolences may be sent to
The Cohen/Wycoff family
333 Nighthawk Lane
Jackson, NJ 08527