Cover photo for Gene Cochran's Obituary
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1938 Gene 2024

Gene Cochran

January 8, 1938 — March 16, 2024

Park Hills

Given the name Alfred, but affectionately called Gene-O, Alfred “Gene” Cochran, 86, of Park Hills, Ky. died March 16, 2024 just as he entered this world – surrounded by family at home. An avid outdoorsman, HVAC tradesman, car enthusiast, father, grandfather, brother and friend, Gene-O is now at peace after a nearly four-year battle with cancer.

 

The youngest of four boys, Gene was born to Bertie and Joseph Cochran in a railroad tenement house in Visalia, Ky. 

 

He was graced with a childhood in the wilderness. When he was one-year-old, he and his family left Visalia and moved to the region where generations of his mother’s and father’s families had subsisted and where Gene, too, learned to live off the land. With no running water or electricity, he helped the family collect firewood and water from the nearby stream in Central Kentucky. Aside from rare trips into town on a horse and wagon, Gene spent his days with his brothers and cousins in the rolling hills outside of London, Ky. – barefoot in the summer so they could save their shoes for winter. The first of thousands of fish he caught was there, using a pole he had fashioned from a stick, a string, and a safety pin.

 

At 11, Gene and his family moved to the banks of the Licking River in Latonia, Ky. There, he learned to garden from his dad. As a kid, he would often catch a train back to Central Kentucky with his mom to visit family and hunt rabbit and squirrel that his grandma would prepare. One of his first memories of life in Northern Kentucky was walking to the roller rink after school to watch kids glide in circles. An unknown woman noticed his fascination one day and rented him a pair of skates. Gene would later join a roller skating race team, and his love for speed on wheels began. A culture of car worship in Latonia seeped into his veins and became a source of joy and lifelong friendships.

 

Shortly out of high school, his first daughter Helena came into the world. But not long after, Gene left his family when he was drafted to the Army. He served in a medical battalion stationed in Fort Hood, Texas – in a division appropriately nicknamed “Hell on Wheels”. He lived out of a duffle bag during the Cuban Missile Crisis, but averted war himself when leaders managed to end the confrontation that brought the U.S. and Soviet Union closest to engaging in a full-scale nuclear war. Upon his return from service, relationships with his young family were difficult. 

 

Gene eventually met Linda, whom he credited with saving his life. He adjusted to calmer living in the suburbs, though he could be found on occasion hunting moles with a pellet gun in the backyard, or mice with a BB gun in the garage. By mid-life, he had two more daughters - Carrie and Kellie - and had become a devoted father to them. He attended hours and hours of their sporting events, and even helped coach some of their teams. He passed down his love of the outdoors, putting a fishing pole in their hands as soon as they could walk, and taking them on countless camping trips. He shared that love with his two grandkids, Max and Louis, whom he also taught to fish and camp. When his grandkids were drawn to muddy creeks, searching for crawdads and tadpoles, they became the latest generation of Cochrans to do so. Later in life, Gene was blessed to reconnect with his daughter, Helena, sharing precious time and special meals often prepared by her husband, John.

 

Gene was also blessed with many friends, whom he shared decades of trips camping, fishing and hunting and attending car shows. He loved welcoming new people into his overlapping circles of friends from Appaloosa Court, Pointe Drive, Russell Street, Third Street, the Ft. Thomas Corvette Club, O.K. Horseshoe Club and A&A Sheet Metal. Sharing scores of fish he caught and with the recipe he had perfected over the years, Gene often used fish fries to bring us all together.

 

Though he would never call himself one, Gene was a true craftsman and artist, known for his creativity and ability to build or fix anything. As macular degeneration continued to rob him of his eyesight, he never stopped doing the things he loved. In recent years, his sons-in-law drove him to car shows in his Corvette so he could visit friends. Andrew and Jason also served as Gene’s eyes and apprentices, learning how to work on appliances, install flooring, and fix any number of things in and around the house.

 

While Gene loved Kentucky, he couldn’t bear being kept indoors for long and chose to spend his winters in Okeechobee, Fl. A man of simple needs, he converted a small garage into living space and filled his days slaying crappie, tending to his garden, and hosting friends and family. It was the help of friends there that made it possible for him to enjoy Florida for as many years as he did. 

 

Gene lived by doing. He is admired for his ability to persist no matter what obstacles life threw at him. Even after cancer surgeries and treatments, Gene was caught doing physically demanding work, climbing ladders to clean his gutters and building rock walls. 

 

Gene was lucky to share many evenings in recent weeks laughing and crying with family and friends as we celebrated his life with him, describing old photos, hearing new and old stories, enjoying his favorite food, singing to his favorite songs and sometimes having ice cream three times a day. While in home hospice, he made it outdoors one last time to watch his grandkids prepare his garden.

 

Holding onto this life as long as he could, Gene died with eyes wide open, talking just moments before passing, while holding the hands of his three daughters.

 

A man of few words, we can only assume he felt his 86 years on this Earth could be summed up by the song he requested be played multiple times at his funeral: Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World.”

 

Gene is survived by his daughters Helena Roden (John), Carrie Cochran (Andrew Smith), Kellie Reser (Jason), grandchildren Max Cochran and Louis Reser, ex-wife Linda, sister-in-law Cheryl Etson, brothers Joe, Kenneth, and Lee, and his 1973 red Corvette Stingray.

 

Gene’s mother Bertie Cochran, née George, father Joseph Cochran, and son Damon Cochran left this life before him, as did his mother-in-law Joan Jones and father-in-law Warren Jones.

 

To celebrate Gene, all are welcomed to the visitation 9-11AM Saturday, March 23, 2024 at Floral Hills Funeral Home in Taylor Mill, Ky., the funeral service that will follow there at 11AM, and his burial thereafter at Floral Hills Memorial Gardens.

 

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made in Gene’s memory to help acquire land for wildlife in the state: Kentucky Fish & Wildlife Foundation, in memory of Gene Cochran; P.O. Box 4115; Frankfort, KY 40601; (502) 229-7578 or online, including Gene Cochran in notes at https://kentuckywildlife.com/donate-to-the-kfwf-general-fund/, or to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center MICU, which saved his life on several occasions: UC Health Foundation, UCMC MICU Fund, In memory of Gene Cochran; PO Box 19970; Cincinnati, OH 45219-0970; (513) 585-8229; or online at https://www.uchealth.com/foundation/donation/ 

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Gene Cochran, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

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Visitation

Saturday, March 23, 2024

9:00 - 11:00 am (Eastern time)

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Funeral Service

Saturday, March 23, 2024

Starts at 11:00 am (Eastern time)

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