Some people knew him as Reverend Cochran. Others called him Pastor Bob. To me he was Mr. Cochran, our pastor at Bon Air Baptist Church during my youth. Today his son David shared the sad news that his dad passed away after a fall and brief illness. He was 94.
The Cochran family moved to the Richmond suburb of Bon Air when I was in middle school. I can still remember the first time we all met the new pastor’s son, David, who was our age. We were at a youth Halloween event at the home of one of the church members — possibly the Swanns — and the new PK (preacher’s kid) was going to attend.
Sure enough, this cute bespectacled young man joined us which must have been a bit awkward since he knew no one … but that didn’t last. The family with five children moved into a split level house a couple of miles from the church and settled into life in a busy and growing church. If I remember correctly, Bobby was a couple of years older than I, David was my age, Becky came next and was a year younger than my sister Gail, then Steve, and then Paul who was around the age of my youngest sister Lori. My family’s home was one block from church so we would often see Mr. Cochran pass our house as he walked to and from church.
He was a tall, lean presence and, truth be told, he kind of intimated me. He was stern yet laughed freely, and his tenure saw an already-large church grow even more, especially the youth group that numbered over 100 in a musical group that consisted of singers, soloists, and instrumentalists. David played banjo. We had guitar players, a bass player, and piano with Bob Gulledge and Caren Cree (Beuker). We traveled with our “Good News” and “Tell It Like It Is” Christian musicals, sharing the word of God in upbeat 1970s-style tempo: “Good news, good news coming!”
They were good years, and the Cochrans were in the midst of it all. Youth retreats, weddings, revivals. Funerals. When we lost my dad in 1975 — a long-time deacon and Sunday school teacher — Mr. Cochran, who had faithfully visited him while in and out of Chippenham Hospital during his two year battle with cancer — was there to pastor and comfort our family and preach at the funeral.
Mrs. Cochran was always a presence in the church, gentle with a soft voice and kind smile. She and Mr. Cochran were married for 67 years. After a busy career, they served 20 years at Bon Air Baptist.
A memorial service will be held on Saturday at the church. It will be a homecoming for many as they smile through their tears, greet old friends, and remember a man whose influence is still felt on their lives. Thank you, Mr. Cochran, and the entire Cochran family, for your dedication to our church family.
“His lord said unto him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.’ ” – Matthew 25:23
Obituary for Reverend Robert F. Cochran
COCHRAN, The Rev. Robert F., 94, Pastor Emeritus of Bon Air Baptist Church, Richmond, died on December 1, 2015. He was born in Neal, Ga. and grew up in Columbia, S.C. He became a Christian at a tent revival at age 13, joined the Tabernacle Baptist Church and joyfully immersed himself in its programs and activities.
Upon graduation from high school, he spent the next six years as a part-time student at the University of South Carolina and full-time employee as clerk to the Chief of Detectives, Columbia Police Department. During these years, he initiated and led six weekly Sunday services at the jail and an apartment complex.
For a year and a half, he directed the city wide “Youth for Christ” movement, which Billy Graham came and helped organize, with Saturday evening attendance averaging 1,000 plus. In 1947, he graduated from the University of South Carolina, was ordained to the ministry and entered Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he met and married Jo Hughes, a fellow student from Greer, S.C. They graduated in 1950. They celebrated 65 years in marriage this past June.
He has pastored five Baptist churches: Santo, Texas, Piedmont, S.C., Galax, Va., Alexandria, Va. and Bon Air from 1966 to 1986, from which he retired and was named Pastor Emeritus. Over the following 10 years, he was Interim Pastor at seven area Baptist churches: Raleigh Forbes, Bethel, Chesterfield, Westhunt, Gwathmey, Hopeful and Biltmore.
His denominational service included First Vice President of the Virginia Baptist General Association, VGBA Board Member, Member of the Southern Baptist Convention Sunday School Board and Foreign Mission Board.
He is survived by his wife, Jo Cochran; and five children, Robert Jr. (Denise) of Malibu, Calif., David (Sheryl) of Alexandria, Becky Coram (Rusty) of Alexandria, Steve (Jenny) of Birmingham, Ala., Paul (Sarah) of Chester.
He was also a warm and loving grandfather to 13 grandchildren, Christina, Robbie, Kevin, Matt, Jake, Luke, Sarah, Joseph, Casey, Leah, Josie, Paul Jr. and Thomas. Of his five siblings, he is survived by Hulda Arant and her husband, Buddy, of Greensboro, N.C.
A memorial service will be held 1 p.m. Saturday, December 5, at Bon Air Baptist Church. In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be sent to Bon Air Baptist Church Endowment Fund in memory of Robert Franklin Cochran. Condolences may be offered at www.woodyfuneralhome.com.