Bill Cochran: Giving back to the people

What’s important to you?

For hometown hero Bill Cochran, moving to South Whidbey answered this question for him.

He said he realized his fondest memories and best feelings of accomplishment were not related to monetary gain or his career success — but were family, and helping others in any small way he can.

“The city rat race, and chasing the successful corporate career left me with little time to do for others. I lost that great feeling from doing something unexpected for others, until we moved to South Whidbey in 1995. Thanks to the volunteer spirit of the people here, I was inspired and once again I found what’s important to me.” Cochran says.

South Whidbey is now the beneficiary of Cochran’s corporate leadership skills and desire to give back.

“Bill is one of the most giving people I have known,” says fellow volunteer George Fisher. “Not only is Bill one of the good guys, but he will lend a hand or help anyone in need. One of the ways Bill volunteers his time, is he organized a volunteer group 23 years ago at Useless Bay community area.”

Fisher says that it’s Cochran that spots and coordinates all the tasks needed, has all the equipment and materials ready, and has done preliminary work ahead. “We volunteers show up at 8 a.m. every Monday and leave at 10:30 a.m.” Cochran comes early to set up and stays late to clean up.

Fisher says, “Bill works alongside of us the entire time, with a smile, we all love working with him.”

The group of 15 men have donated over 11,000 man hours.

Cochran remarks, “The volunteers pay the same community dues as everyone else, but willingly give up their time to be of service.”

Cochran says he and his wife of 58 years, Shari, wanted to move out of the city of Bellevue, and began visiting a plethora of places in the region.

“One Saturday we visited Mt. Vernon and drove back home via South Whidbey, because we had never been here before. One of the spots we visited here was Useless Bay Colony (UBC). The manager described it ‘as a club in the country, not a country club.’ She said, ‘it’s not an elite club by any stretch, if you play golf with people here, one may be living on social security, one a micro soft engineer, and everyone in-between, and at the end of the day you won’t know which one is which.’”

Cochran remembers, “Shari and I said to one another, South Whidbey is where we want to live.”

Driving up to the Cochran’s home, you cannot help but smile at the thousands of Christmas lights and decorations on the yard, walk-way and roof, and it all continues inside, as Cochran and wife Shari usher you in. He smiles and remarks, “I am a child when it comes to Christmas decorating.”

Cochran, was raised with 4 other siblings, in Springfield, Oregon.

“Our parents owned a neighborhood grocery store, and we lived behind. My friends and I thought we were rich because my parents owned all that candy and ice cream. It wasn’t until I was in high school that I realized our family was just seeking out a living.

“My siblings and I worked in the store, and my dad offered to double our money if we bought War Bonds with our wages.”

“This fostered a desire for me to save money. Hard work was part of life, I worked in the fields during summers picking fruits and vegetables at age 10, and got a paper route at age 11.

At age 15, I hitchhiked to Montana and worked a summer at a wheat ranch for $10 a day.”

He says he bought a car when he turned 16, and in summer leased an older gas station and car wash and hired his buddies to pump gas and wash cars. This and construction work allowed him to pay his way through college.

Cochran says, “My older brother always described me as, ‘Ready, Fire, Aim,’ — in that order. It’s true, I am more of a ‘lets do it’ guy. If we do it wrong, we can fix it, but lets get to it.”

Most of the time his “let’s do it” attitude works, but he admits there have been times where he has had to redo some things.

Such as yesterday, he says when he was on their roof, putting up more Christmas decorations. He took one small short cut that resulted in Santa and the reindeer flying off the roof four hours later. He started over and this time did it right.

He says, “But, I forgave myself, learned something, and moved on.”

When asking him what kinds of things has he had to forgive himself for?

“I don’t dwell on the past, if you will, or think far in the future. I live in the present.”

That said, he shares,“I wished I had told my dad how I appreciated the sacrifices he made for us.

“Also, I could have worked harder in college. I learned in the Navy that when I really applied myself I got a lot out of it.

He smiles, “I still washed out of the pilot program, but I gained a lot of knowledge by giving it my all.

“And it’s too bad I had not made amends with my younger brother before it was too late. I have had to learn a hard lesson and forgive myself for that too, though that was a harder one.”

Cochran has been giving blood and now platelets too for 60 years. When he moved to Whidbey Island he volunteered to register donors, man the canteen, bakes cookies and brownies, makes the blood run to the airport, and organizes and promotes blood drives at UBC.

“It always feels good to be able to give,” he says.

Lynn Peabody writes, ‘I, like many others, are better people through our association with Bill. His life epitomizes every one of the Scout Laws. He is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent. Through his many activities, through organizations such as blood drives, community and neighboring events, to church and helping someone in need — you see all the traits you would like to see in yourself, or in your children.”

Cochran says he knows he is fortunate. “I am Blessed, to have married the love of my life, Shari, and have our two wonderful children and grandchildren. Marrying Shari was my best life decision,’ he says.

His mood changes from light and jovial, to somber. There are moments of silence, while clear he begins to tear up. Breaking the silence, and asking him what he is thinking about, he comments with choked words. “You know we don’t always know what we have until we lose it.

Two years ago, Shari had serious heart problems that lasted six months, I didn’t know if I would loose her!”

Shari is OK now. Cochran continues, “She is so important to me, since that time I find I am more attentive. For instance, she generally goes to bed first, I go in ahead of her and warm the electric blanket, and turn down the bed for her, small things like that.”

Bill and Nan Hahan, have known Cochran for over 20 years. “There’s not enough people like Bill in this world. He is a champion of a giving spirit, and a master of organizations from his past executive position, to his volunteering ever since his retirement.

“America needs more people like Bill at this time of detachment, entitlement, and emotional sufferings, due to lack of caring, respect, and ethical values.” Bill can be our next President of United States.”

Cochran says even small things we do for others add up. “It can be frustrating with the news, politics, and the world. I can’t make much of a difference in the world, nation, or our state. But I can make some small contributions here locally. Thank you to the fine examples of generous people on South Whidbey, I know where my priorities are in life.”

“Need help? Want something done? Well, Bill Cochran is your man. I’ve known Bill for over 20 years and have never met anyone who is as energetic and more involved in his community than Bill. He has been a leader at his church, been on the governing body of Useless Bay Colony and a director of Useless Bay Golf and Country Club. He is a man of honor and integrity. I am honored to call Bill a friend.”

Tom Hanify, community member

“I have known Bill Cochran for nearly 25 years. Bill is a dynamo! He retired from a successful business career and began his volunteer career by caring for his Whidbey Island neighbors. It would be hard to imagine anyone who has given more time for more people than Bill. He is always ready to help out, to lend a hand or strong back, to take on any project and to see it through to completion. Bill is faithful, inspirational, and trustworthy. He works quietly without any expectation of recognition or fanfare. He is a true Hometown Hero.”

Pastor Jim Lindus, Trinity Lutheran Church

“When we moved to Whidbey Island and next door to Bill and Shari Cochran, we had no idea we would hit the “jackpot” for best neighbors. They immediately opened their arms to us and included us in neighborhood gatherings to introduce us and make us feel welcome to Whidbey Island.

Bill is always available to share his tools, extend a hand with a yard projects and generously share his garden bounty with us and all the other neighbors. People open their doors to find little baggies of cherry tomatoes, zucchini and crisp fall apples.

He lifts you up with his smile and BIG HUGS, and is the first to coordinate a fundrasier for someone in need.”

John and Cynthia Shelton, next door neighbors

“I believe this story illustrates what people think of Bill. Pastor Lindus was telling the congregation about a church member that was helping at a street mission for the homeless in Seattle. When the person ran out of donated socks to give to the needy, he took off his own shoes and gave his socks to a street person. Several of us in the congregation just assumed Pastor Lindus was talking about Bill because this is exactly what he would do. If you were in need, Bill would give you the socks off his feet, the shirt off his back and the last dollar in his wallet.”

Bill and Gail Rieck

“Bill Cochran is a “Rock Solid” guy who always shows his Christian faith in all that he does. He is one fine guy.

Maintaining old friendships and seeking new ones is one of Bills strongest suits. If you need help or emotional support, Bill is right there!

The size of your heart determined the size of your life.”

Ron Norman

“Bill Cochran — is the definition of Hometown Hero to us.

Always helping others, he is the change we long to see in this world. As an extraordinary volunteer, we don’t begin to know all the large and small activities that get done because he is there, without any recognition at all.

Whether setting up Christmas trees or stowing supplies after an event when others have gone on to something else. He is also a devoted and loving husband and proud father and grandfather.”

Tom & Dee Brown

“Bill is a tireless worker even at 80 years old, he always has a pretty good idea on solving a problem and with his commanding presence and yet an engaging personality, he can usually win the day with others on his good ideas. He is an all around great guy who is highly respected by anyone who knows him.”

Jim Sievers

“If you want someone to spot problems then offer solutions, Bill Cochran is your man. He has been known to walk the Useless Bay Golf course in the wee hours of the morning making lists of projects that need to be accomplished. He and his crew have saved Useless Bay Country Club thousands of dollars by doing work on the golf course and surrounding areas themselves. And you couldn’t ask for a better friend.”

Claudia L. Cox

“Bill is a great choice for Hometown Hero. For 23 years he has volunteered on the maintenance of our golf course.

He is very involved in the club and always willing to jump in, he is and has been on several committees and lends his expertise, time, skills, ideas, influence and even donates money. He is always considering the club’s best interests and acting for our benefit.”

Christi Karvasek, General Manager

Useless Bay Golf & Country Club

“Bill’s enthusiasm is infectious. You always enjoy being around him. He is a tireless worker, trying to improve everything he is involved in. He is generous, kind and just an all-around great guy. Bill is a real asset to his community. He is the kind of person everyone would want as a neighbor and a friend.”

Jim Short, Freeland