Urban is sad to share the news that Edward J. D’Alba passed away peacefully earlier this month. He was 91. “EJ” – as he was known to his co-workers - was one of the original founders of Urban Engineers, alongside Robert C. Olson and K. Yervant Terzian, as well as four others from Lawrence T. Beck & Associates. They formed the ‘lucky seven’ of Urban Engineers, Inc.
EJ personified the work ethic and values of the firm. He took tremendous pride in the projects he engineered, which included the New York State Thruway, the Garden State Parkway, the New Jersey Turnpike, the Blue Route, the Center City Commuter Tunnel in Philadelphia, and the Phase IIA Expansion program at Philadelphia International Airport, where the architectural community nick named him the “Roads Scholar.” It was a title that only told a part of the story, for he had a passion for bridge design, aviation facilities, and structures small and large.
For EJ, the role of the engineer was not limited to the calculations to satisfy the functional and structural requirements of the project. He instilled in all that he worked with – and for – the need to consider the aesthetics of all elements of the work. More often than not, he succeeded in that endeavor, showcasing the creative side of his mind, an extraordinary balance of structure and creativity. He was an artist, often sketching what needed to be done with the skill of an architect. He wrote poetry, verse, and captured the stories of the folks he knew and loved in a collection of “Thoughts – Poems and Remembrances” which will be shared by his family for generations. For EJ, the best years of his life were shared with his wife Carolyn, whom he appropriately met at a Valentine’s Day party. They loved to travel to Europe and shared what they discovered with friends and family. They would often set up a wonderful itinerary for others to follow. Carolyn predeceased him in 1991.
Urban has continued to expand since EJ’s tenure, having gone from an organization of seven in 1960 to 450 employees today. The firm is and has been led by a team he mentored, including his nephew, Edward M. D’Alba, who passed on the reigns to the current leadership in 2016, after having served more than 26 years at the helm. Urban is now an employee-owned company under its third generation of leadership, with 15 offices in eight states.
EJ loved sports and excelled in baseball. His high school coach declared – 25 years after EJ’s graduation – that “Lefty” was the best first baseman he had ever coached. EJ joined the Navy right after high school and was aboard the first ship that landed in Wakayama and Nagoya in Japan, thus witnessing firsthand the destruction of the bombings that ended the war. He was a graduate of Manhattan College. In a writing titled “Me” (A brief autobiography) of seven pages he closes with, “When the final score is tallied, it is my fervent wish that they will say that I played the game of life well.”