T. Francis Cochran, a farmer who was honored as a Harford County Living Treasure, died of congestive heart failure May 6 at his son’s Monkton home. He was 94.
He was born on his grandparents’ Harford Hill Farm on Pocock Road in Fallston. He was the son of Julia Agnes Lynch, a Harford County schoolteacher, and John Raymond Cochran, who collected milk from dairy farms and brought it to a Baltimore dairy.
He attended the one-room Taylor School, a mile away from his home. He later attended St. Margaret Catholic School in Bel Air and Bel Air High School, which he left just short of his graduation to join the Navy during World War II.
The day before he was to get his military physical, he broke his neck in a swimming accident at Laurel Brook. He then began working at the Koppers Co. making piston rings for engines in P-51 aircraft.
“It always bothered him that he had not received his high school diploma, so at the age of 68 he took the remaining course that he needed and sat for his GED exam,” said one of his sons, David A. Cochran of Germantown. “Not only did he pass, he graduated with honors and was asked to appear before the Maryland State General Assembly to represent and be recognized as an example of lifelong learning.”
In a 1994 Sun story, when he received his diploma at a ceremony at Harford Community College, he told of getting an invitation to a high school reunion.
“It was just the prod I needed,” he said of his decision to get the GED. He passed the examination with honors.
Mr. Cochran worked for the old First National Bank, where he met his future wife, Mary Jane Leipold, through mutual friends. They married in 1947.
“He and his wife raised a wonderful family. They were such good people,” said friend and neighbor Marie Hess. “He was a calm, nice man.”
Mr. Cochran became the farm manager of the 300-acre Harford Hill Farm in Fallston as well as the 180-acre Slade farm on Schuster Road in Jarrettsville.
Mr. Cochran had talents and hobbies. He was an accomplished carpenter, gardener and cheesecake baker. He also made cream puffs and annually made jams and jellies.
“The T in my father’s name stood for Thomas, but he never used that name and was always known as Francis. He was named after St. Francis of Assisi and it suited him very well because he was a very gentle man,” said another son, Jeffrey P. Cochran of Monkton. “He grew up in a time when men were supposed to be tough and rigid and it often resulted in boorish behavior where real men were afraid to show kindness and became bigots toward things and people who were different than themselves.
“But Dad was the opposite. He was a man’s man who could bale hay, harvest corn or plow all day, but he was happiest when he could sweep my mother into his arms, hold her hand as he walked around their yard, change a baby’s diaper, give one of his children a bath, or act as the disciplinarian at nighttime religious education classes at church.”
He loved to read and could rarely be seen without a book nearby. In addition to historical literature, he was particularly fond of Western novels.
Mr. Cochran was a devout Roman Catholic and longtime member of the Knights of Columbus. Through his life he was a parishioner of several churches, including St. Mark’s, St. Ignatius and St. John the Evangelist.
His son David said his father put the family first. Much of his early family life was spent shuttling his eight children back and forth to activities.
“As his children grew and began to spread out, Francis and Mary Jane were able to travel farther than they had ever dreamed,” David said. “These travels took them to many places across the United States as well as Ireland, England, France, Germany and Hong Kong.”
In 2019 Mr. Cochran was honored as a Harford Living Treasure for being a person who lived in Harford County for more than 70 years and who contributed in a significant way to youth and agriculture.
The award was given, in part, because he was a lifelong supporter of Harford County’s 4-H program. He was also recognized for his years as a farm manager.
“Each summer he hired several young men to work on the 300-acre beef farm he managed,” his son David said. “They learned life’s lessons from him. Several have gone on to be captains of industry, officers in the armed forces or simple, honest fathers and husbands in his image.”
A funeral Mass will be held at 11 a.m. Thursday at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church in Hydes.
In addition to his sons David and Jeffrey, survivors include two other sons, Thomas F. Cochran Jr. of Colora and Christopher M. Cochran of Palm Beach, Florida; four daughters, Jane C. Lanahan of Monkton, Rebecca D. Hedges of Bel Air, Elizabeth C. Eastburn of Bethany Beach, Delaware, and Margaret C. Jordan of Chantilly, Virginia; 16 grandchildren; and 18 great-grandchildren. His wife of 60 years died in 2007.