Saturday, April 01, 2023

John “Johnny” Cochran

| February 22, 2023 12:00 AM

John “Johnny” Cochran, 92, of Saint Regis, passed away peacefully on Feb. 8, 2023 with his family and friends by his side.

John was born at Aunt Cora’s house on Main Street in Sandpoint, Idaho on March 3, 1930 to Bart and Caroline (Lafore) Cochran. At that time his parents and three older siblings lived in a CC camp in a wall tent as the Great Depression swept through North Idaho. In 1932 his dad built a log house with a dirt floor for their growing family near Colburn, Idaho.

Johnny was never averse to taking a risk, if reward justified the risk, Johnny would do it. At age 4 years Johnny took up smoking cigarettes to keep up with his older brothers, however after the burning down of the outhouse incident in 1935 and being caught by his father, the consequences proved too great and at the age of 5, gave up smoking for good.

His entrepreneurial pursuits began around this time when his father gave he and his two brothers $2 to go to town to buy a wiener-pig. To their delight, on their way home with the pig they came across a more enticing deal to trade the pig for a bicycle. In their haste they failed to inspect said bicycle of all its working parts. With one on the back, one pedaling, and one on the handle-bars they came crashing down the hill in a heap much to the dismay of their father. Johnny never bought a piece of equipment without close inspection from that day on.

The family soon moved into town so the children could attend school and avoid having to walk so far as it was uphill both ways. His first job was at a local bakery when he was 11 years old, where he worked from 4:00 a.m. until the school day started. He graduated from Sandpoint High School in 1948. His first job out of high school was working for the USGS survey crew as an assistant to the camp cook, also known as the “flunky.” This survey crew was responsible for mapping the Cabinet Mountains for the very first time. John never enjoyed the job of “flunky,” but loved the wilderness. John was no flunky, he was a leader, and in May of 1950 he joined the United States Marine Corp which would forever shape his life.

He took basic training in San Diego, Calif., and was stationed at Camp Pendleton where he joined the 7th Tank Division. He made lifelong friends with his fellow Marines during their cold weather training in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in 1951. Not long after this training the division was deployed to Korea where he rose quickly through the ranks to Staff Sergeant Tank Commander. His company was awarded two presidential citations during this time for their support of the Army’s 25th division and the Turkish Brigade while in battle.

John was wounded in action when his tank was hit by a Chinese 50mm rocket, where he suffered shrapnel to the face. They stayed in battle for two days after his injury with no medical attention. He was awarded the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star Medal with Valor in combat. When not in battle John would often make friends with the local communities where he was stationed. As winter was upon them, he wrote a letter to his mother stating that they were stationed near an orphanage where the children had no cold weather clothing. His mother Caroline did a coat drive sending dozens of coats from Sandpoint to the orphanage in Korea. His humor and good nature often carried him through regardless of place or circumstance.

Following his time in the Marine Corps and for the rest of his life he remained a proud Marine, who kept in close contact with his fellow Marine Brothers. Semper Fi.

His next move took him to Thompson Falls, where he married Patricia Borland. Soon after they welcomed their two children Lorilie and Curtis. At that time he worked for the Pack River Timber Company and Oliver & Oliver Logging. They pioneered many of the Forest Service roads in Mineral and Sanders County at that time. Think of him if you find yourself driving over Little Joe Road and up 2-mile. After his first marriage ended he went out on his own as a gyppo logger with one of the best Idaho jammer log yarders in the country.

In the summer of 1959, he met the love of his life Louise (Tenney) Cochran at a dance in Sandpoint, Idaho. They married in Bonners Ferry on Feb. 27, 1960. They moved to Superior, where Johnny worked in the woods and together they started the Cedar Savage Shake Company. In 1962 they bought the Frosty Drive In in Saint Regis and lived in a log cabin where the interstate now sits. Frosty’s was famous as it was the only place to have live sea lions in Montana.

Over the years he succeeded in running multiple companies including but not limited to; Skyline Timber Company, The Cedar Savage Shake Company, Cochran Diamond Drill Mine Exploration Company, and Cochran Excavation. His pursuits covered all nature of genres including logging, mining, land development, construction and the building of many roads and sub-divisions that make up Saint Regis and surrounding areas to this day. In 1970 he was elected Mineral County Commissioner and aided in the building of the Mineral County Hospital. In 1972 he served as the state delegate for the Montana Constitutional Convention. He was instrumental in the start-up of the Tricon Timber Company Mill; which provided countless jobs in the area. After “retirement” he built the St. Regis KOA campground.

At the age of 85 he bought mining claims in the Yukon, chasing his dream to find the mother lode. He loved mining and working the ground with his D-8 cat. He continued this up until last year. He was an Earth First guy he would tell you, “We’ll mine the rest of the planets later.”

To say that he was an avid hunter and fisherman would be an understatement. An accomplished elk hunter, he shot his last elk at age 90, making him the oldest hunter in Idaho to harvest an elk in 2020. John loved to fish and recorded the largest black marlin ever caught off the shores of New Zealand. John and Louise loved wildlife and created Grandma Louise’s Wildlife Refuge near their home in St. Regis.

For 60 loving years he and Louise traveled all over the world, often in search of big fish and sunny beaches, Marine buddies, good friends and new adventures. Often these travels included their granddaughter Corrynn (Cori) whom they raised from the time she was 16 months old.

John was bigger than life, a true legend, and a friend to so many. He had a way of making friends wherever he went and bringing them back to St. Regis to enjoy his hospitality, often they would stay. There isn’t a place in Western Montana or Northern Idaho that you could go and not meet a friend of Johnny Cochran. Most of all John loved his family and friends. He was especially kind to children, helping them, mentoring them, and recruiting them to join the Marine Corp. Many people owe their success to John’s mentoring and installing the can-do work ethic and values he lived his entire life by. Few people follow the knowledge of their heart like John did. When he gave you his word, his word was gold.

John was an active member of the Shriners, Algeria Temple and a Jester. He loved being a Shriner and raising funds to support the Shriners Children Hospital. John was the inventor of the bathtub-go-carts often driven by Shriners in the parades.

He maintained a happy-go-lucky, friendly, playful, often mischievous demeanor with a laugh that carried and could be recognized from afar. Suffice it to say he was the favorite uncle to many of his nieces and nephews.

John is survived by his sister Mary Jo (Dale) Sphar, Texas; son, Curtis Cochran of St. Regis, MT granddaughter, Corrynn Cochran of Missoula, MT, grandson, Benjamin Cochran of Spokane WA, surrogate son, Lance Jasper of Superior, MT. He is proceeded in death by his parents, Bart and Caroline Cochran, his wife Louise Cochran, his daughter Lorilie Cochran, three brothers, Neal, Allen, and Patrick Cochran, three sisters, Donna Lou Cochran, Lucille Miller and Nellie Luckie.

Memorial services will be held on Feb. 25, 2023 at the St. Regis gymnasium at 11 a.m. followed by inurnment at the St.Regis, Cemetery and a reception at the Trestle Creek Club House.

John’s final resting place will be next to Louise, his beloved wife of 60 years at the Saint Regis Cemetery.

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