By Katie Fallon
Mourners were granted a brief reprieve from the rain on July 22 as the community said goodbye to one of its most vocal greenspace cheerleaders.
Charlie Cochrane died suddenly on July 12 after suffering a heart attack in his office at the John Ripley Forbes Big Tree Forest Preserve, the city’s most noteworthy area of greenspace.
Cochrane, 60, was the executive director of the 30-acre nature sanctuary and could often be found walking the miles of trails at the preserve or behind his desk at the log cabin that housed his office on the edge of the Big Trees property on Roswell Road.
A memorial service was held Sunday evening within the preserve, where many of the more than 100 mourners noted Cochrane could be found every day from dawn until dusk. Attendees ranged in age from toddlers guided by the watchful hand of a parent to the elderly guided by the supportive brace of a cane. Whether sitting on benches made from felled trees or standing amidst the oak wood chips spread faithfully by Cochrane and his army of volunteers, mourners were even treated to a bag piper who ended the service with a stirring rendition of “Amazing Grace.”
During the service, mourners were invited to share thoughts about Cochrane. From board members who knew Cochrane for decades to visitors who frequented the preserve’s trails and were always greeted with Cochrane’s infamous smile, all waited patiently among the mosquitoes and warm sun to say their final goodbye.