Celebrating the Life of Russ and Barbara Cochran
Longtime residents of the Santa Clarita Valley (SCV) Russ and Barbara Cochran have positively affected the lives of seniors, people who struggle with alcohol and drug abuse, children, domestic violence victims, and musicians since the 1970s.
Their activism began in 1973 at the SCV Community Health Council which Russ helped organize because of the lack of local medical services. Russ was then a school administrator and Barbara operated a secretarial service from home. After separating from her then husband, Joe Stearns, she wanted to get more involved in the community. Russ was working on a proposal to fund a substance abuse clinic. He invited Barbara to accompany him to inspect an alcohol rehabilitation facility. On the trip home, they stopped to enjoy a lunch at TIP’S restaurant.
Russ reached for his wallet and realized he had left it at work. Barbara picked up the tab. “Oh goodie, I got him,” is how Barbara recalled the moment. Their first official date happened soon thereafter, and the proposal on which they collaborated created the Community Care Center.
Barbara, originally from England, and Russ, born in Ontario, Calif., would continue to help establish other entities, including the College of the Canyons Symphony of the Canyons, Domestic Violence Center, and SCV Senior Center.
“Russ and I were polar opposites. You really had to talk to him to pull him out,” Barbara said. “Yet we loved to do so many things together.”
They played golf, loved music, relished European river boat cruises, traveled to dozens of countries, rode motorcycles, enjoyed glider flying, and treasured Friday dinners with friends. They were members of the Elks and the Old Farts Flying Club, a club for enthusiastic model airplane builders.
Their community service typically involved Russ behind the scenes and Barbara in the spotlight. “ He was a very quiet man, very behind the scenes.” Barbara has received many awards and accolades for her service. Volunteer of the Year, Woman of the Year, and Zontian of the Year are among the many awards Barbara earned. She accepted many volunteer leadership roles within the Boys and Girls Club, Domestic Violence Center, SCV Child & Family Center, Safe Rides, and Zonta Club. Since 2005, she has co-hosted the “Senior Hour” on KHTS-AM. “No matter what I wanted to do, Russ supported me 150 percent.”
“Russ and Barbara were such a great team—and they were a lot of fun,” said Adele Macpherson who has known the couple since she joined Zonta in 1989. “Russ had a great sense of humor, even when he was ill.”
Before meeting Barbara, Russ was a pilot and an aircraft mechanic who also served as a combat medic in Japan from 1950-52. He sang in numerous choirs and played the violin in the Hanford Symphony Orchestra. He earned a PhD from USC, but never asked to be called doctor. Russ spent 37 years as a teacher and principal; 24 of which were in the Saugus Union School District. It was important to him to separate his personal and business lives. Only the closest of friends knew, in fact, that Russ and Barbara eloped in Las Vegas in 1996.
Barbara had three children that Russ adored —Chuck, Diedre and Scott—as if they were his own. Today Barbara and Russ have six grandchildren and six great grandchildren that live in Palmdale and Virginia.
Tragedy hit on January 16th when Russ was admitted to the hospital with pneumonia, where his condition was not getting better. For several weeks Barabra put life on hold and spent most of her time in the hospital visiting Russ. They knew the days were numbered and in late February, Barbara told him she was going to donate $10,000 in his name to the SCV Senior Center. Russ was too weak to talk, but he approved the action with a smile. Russ passed away peacefully four days later, on February 27, one month shy of turning 87. He was laid to rest on March 23rd at Eternal Valley. “People have not done what we have done. All I can say is my life with him was incredible.” The donation was a final fitting gesture to a private man who had given so much to his community.
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