WINTERSVILLE - Very few communities can name one person they can call their anchor. Wintersville is one of those communities, and that anchor was Robert E. Cochrun.
Cochrun died Wednesday after more than 38 years of service to the village. He was 74.
"We send our sympathy, prayers and support to his wife, Loretta, and all his children, grandchildren and his family and friends," Mayor Bob Gale stated Thursday evening. "This is a very sad day for the village of Wintersville. We have lost someone who was so dedicated and spent many years of public service all for the village."
Known as "the people's councilman," Cochrun always was concerned about the citizens of Wintersville.
"He had heart, determination and spirit in all he did for the people of Wintersville," Gale said. "Bob's 38 years of service and those he served with were a major attributing factor in making Wintersville a community for which we all can be proud."
Cochrun's tenure in office began Jan. 1, 1974, when he was first became a councilman. He served that post until he was elected mayor in 1996. He served two terms as mayor before returning to council in 2006. He presently held a seat on council.
During Cochrun's 38 years in office, he contributed much to help, improve and develop the village, Gale noted. Some of his accomplishments include: establishing the village's first cable televison service, establishing bus service; full-time employee sick benefits and paid holidays; widening of Main Street; the wdening of and construction of sidewalks to Fernwood Road; the first grant for juvenile officer for police department; the first free summer pickup for large items; a recycling grant that allowed purchase of a recycling truck; the widening of state Route 43 at the U.S. Route 22 intersection; TIFF District for the Comcast building; the establishment of a village administrator; implementation of village wage tax; the move to the new village municipal complex on Grove Street; the selection of magistrate for Wintersville Magistrate Court; and the development of numerous subdivisions, most recently including Sam's Way, Meridian Green, Industrial Complex on Kragle Road and Cara Place.
His personal accomplishments include the Wintersville Lifetime Achievement Award; Brooke-Hancock-Jefferson Metropolitan Authority Lifetime Achievement Award; as well as a street in the village named in his honor, "Cochrun Lane."
He also belonged to many organizations and clubs, including Sigma Beta Phi fraternity, Blessed Sacrament Men's Club, Ohio Municipal League and the Democratic Party Executive Committee; and was a former member of the Ohio Mayors' Association and the Community Action Council. He also was a member of Blessed Sacrament Church.
Kathy Collopy, Wintersville Police Department clerk, met Cochrun in 1982, during his time on council.
"Bob was the only person that is on council now who was here when I started," she said. "He cared about the citizens and that was why he was always re-elected. If you called him and you had a problem, he was just adamant about fixing the problem until he got it resolved. And most of the time it was within 24 to 48 hours. He would keep calling who was in charge until he resolved it for that person. He was the people's council member."
One of Collopy's favorite memories is Cochrun's daily visits to the police department.
"He was a good, kind, decent man," she noted. "He stopped in to see us every day after he retired. Sometimes two and three times a day. He loved being mayor, and he was so proud when he became mayor. He wasn't in politics for any glory, he just wanted to help people. On days when he wouldn't visit, he would call just to keep in contact will us. He will truly, truly be missed."
Wintersville Police Chief Ed Laman said he had known Cochrun since he was in high school.
"Bob worked at the steel mill with my father and he was instrumental in getting my father to run for council," Laman stated. "They served on council together. Bob was also mayor when I took over for Chief Vick Calabrese in 2000."
Laman said he will remember Cochrun as someone who was very appreciative of the police department.
"He thought very highly of the police department because he was an integral part whenever Vick Calabrese was the chief here and he always made comments that he always wanted to do everything he could for the police department," he explained. "The police were always there if there was every any problem and that's why he always thanked us."
Walt Ziemba, village administrator, said he will always remember Cochrun's storytelling.
"He would always talk about the people of the village in general, like 'did you know this person?' or 'have you heard about this person?' He knew everybody and he cared about everybody," Ziemba said. "He was very dedicated to the village."
Ziemba said Cochrun always found different jobs for the village crews to take on.
"He would stop in my office, chat for a few minutes and then would say 'Walt, grab your coat, we need to go look at something'," he noted. "He would have some kind of project he wanted to look at whether it be a pothole, or a weathered flag, but always something village related and different kind of jobs for the guys to do."
Council members also gave their sentiments to Cochrun's family and expressed their deep gratitude to the late councilman.
"I want to give my gratitude and appreciation to Bob," Councilman Robbie Martin said. "I will truly miss him. He was a great man and he was always there on the scene taking care of the village. Everything he did was from the goodness of his heart."
"When I started on council six years ago, Bob took me right under his wing," Councilman Bob Merriman added. "If you had a question, Bob had an answer. God bless him."
"Bob hired me 16 years ago and so I have always had a special attachment to him," Village Clerk Mike Payne said. "I send condolences to his family. We will definitely miss him."
"It is a sad day for the village," Councilwoman Phyllis Foreman noted. "I will miss him a lot."
"After Bob retired, he took his days and drove around the village and answered most of the citizens' calls," Councilman Tom Bottorf said. "I will miss looking out my window on Saturday morning and seeing his car drive through Beechwood. He had a big heart and looked out for everyone."
Councilman Jason Mattern also sent his condolences.
"Bob will be sorely missed," he said. "He dedicated so much to this community."
"I considered Bob a great friend and ally that was supportive and helpful during my years as mayor," Gale concluded. "Bob is someone you can never replace and I would just hope that our current leaders and future leaders of Wintersville can continue to work as Bob would have done, putting the people of Wintersville above themselves. He will truly be missed."
Calling hours are from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday at the Dunlope-Shorac Funeral Home in Wintersville, where funeral services will be held at 10 a.m. Monday.