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David Griffin Cochran

September 22, 1922 November 2, 2019
David Griffin  Cochran
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Obituary for David Griffin Cochran

Pioneer of aviation in Alaska and longtime area resident, Dave Cochran, passed into the presence of the Lord he so faithfully served on Saturday, November 2, at Riverside Assisted Living in Soldotna. He was 97.

A memorial service will be held at Soldotna Bible Chapel on December 14 at 2 p.m. Pastor John Rysdyk will officiate. Interment will be at the Kenai Cemetery.

David Griffin Cochran was born September 22, 1922 in Thermopolis, Wyoming to Alfred and Hazel Cochran. He grew up raising livestock on his family’s ranch in Wyoming, but from a young age, always wanted to become a pilot. While standing on the river bank, behind his home, a red biplane zoomed past over the river, nearly level with him, igniting a lifelong passion for aviation.

Mr. Cochran graduated from Thermopolis High School in 1940, then Lincoln Aeronautical Institute in 1943. He took an aircraft mechanic job at the airport in Mount Pleasant, Iowa, where he soon met Marjorie Moore, a legal stenographer. Mr. Cochran enlisted in the Army during World War II and served in Fresno, California. During his time in California, he obtained his pilot’s license on October 28, 1945. Four months later, he returned to Mount Pleasant, where he and Marjorie were married on March 2, 1946.

After the war, Mr. Cochran worked for flying outfits in Sioux City, Iowa and Buffalo, Wyoming. During his time in Buffalo, he became inspired to do missionary work in Alaska, and moved to Billings, Montana to complete the necessary education. In June 1962, Mr. and Mrs. Cochran and their four children made the drive up the Alcan Highway to Alaska. They served with Arctic Missions as missionaries in Egegik, Nenana, and Talkeetna, before moving to Soldotna in 1968. Mr. Cochran joined with Roald Amundsen as a pilot-mechanic for Missionary Aviation Repair Center (M.A.R.C.), located at the Soldotna airport.

In forty years with M.A.R.C., Mr. Cochran greatly impacted the lives of student pilots and villagers all across Alaska and beyond. In 1991, he flew the first missionary group to enter Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union. Two years later, when his aircraft engines failed returning from Siberia, he performed a textbook ditching into the Bering Sea that resulted in a miraculous rescue. Mr. Cochran was awarded the FAA’s Master Mechanic and Master Pilot awards, making him the first dual recipient on the Kenai Peninsula and just the sixth in Alaska history. He compiled over 22,100 flight hours, including 19,000 flight hours in Alaska. He retired from M.A.R.C. in 2008, but continued on as the chaplain.

Mr. Cochran was a member of Soldotna Bible Chapel, where he served as a deacon for many years. He also served as a witness to the hundreds of lives impacted by his work all across Alaska. His incredible knowledge of aviation and passion for flying was infectious; he even taught his children, Phil and Joyce, and grandson, Cliff, how to fly. Most importantly, the quality of his life equaled that of his namesake, as “A man after God’s own heart.”

Mr. Cochran was predeceased by his wife of 63 years in 2009. He is survived by son, Philip Cochran and his wife, Connie, of Kenai; son, Alan Cochran of Soldotna; daughter, Sue Schaafsma and her husband, Mark, of Sequim, Washington; daughter, Joyce Keller and her husband, Stephan, of Anchorage; granddaughter Janna Reynoso, and her husband, Mark, of Seattle; grandson, Clifford Cochran and his wife, Jessica, of Soldotna; granddaughter, Larissa Thomas and her husband, Brandon, of Houston, Texas; grandson, Andrew Schaafsma of Soldotna; great-grandsons, Silas, Caleb, and Alexander.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be given to Missionary Aviation Repair Center or Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. The family of Mr. Cochran wishes to thank Riverside Assisted Living in Soldotna for the care they provided the past three years.

Arrangements were made by Peninsula Memorial Chapel.

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