2015-03-05 / Obituaries

William Cochran

William Cochran William Cochran William J. Cochran, the last original member of the Mackinac Bridge Authority, passed away Saturday, February 15, 2015, at the age of 92.

Mr. Cochran was an automobile dealer from Iron Mountain when he was first appointed to the Mackinac Bridge Authority in 1950 by Governor G. Mennen Williams. He served on the board until 1967, having been reappointed by governors John Swainson, George Romney, and John Engler, and he returned to St. Ignace in 2007 for the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the bridge, which was opened to traffic in 1957.

Most recently, he lived in East Lansing, and his career included working for American Cement in Los Angeles and Detroit, Business Research Corporation in Birmingham, and the Michigan Department of Commerce, including its director of the International Division of the Office of Economic Expansion. He also directed the Michigan Economic Action Council and the Michigan Job Development Authority and, from 1986 to 1991, was a securities broker from First of Michigan in East Lansing.

Mr. Cochran retired in 1966 as a lieutenant colonel from the U.S. Army Reserves and served in the transportation corps in Europe during World War II. He held a bachelor’s degree and MBA in finance from the University of Michigan.

“Bill was a foundational member of the Mackinac Bridge Authority, helping set the high standard for the bridge’s management that has endured for more than 50 years,” said William Gnodtke, the current chairman of the Mackinac Bridge Authority. “His leadership and guidance have been vital to the bridge’s continued success.”

Flags at the Mackinac Bridge were flown at half-staff Saturday, February 28, and Sunday, March 1, in tribute to Mr. Cochran.

Other members of the original Mackinac Bridge Authority were Prentiss Brown, Charles Fisher, George Osborn, Murray Van Wagoner, and Fred Zeder, and these men, noted MBA Executive Secretary Robert Sweeney, “formed the basis for how all succeeding board members have served. All of us who are stewards of the bridge feel very proud to follow their example.”

Mr. Cochran was born August 16, 1922, in Hancock to William D. and Gladys Strobel Cochran and was graduated from Iron Mountain High School in 1940.

He and his wife, the former Marilyn Holmquist, were married in 1952 and loved international travel and skiing. He enjoyed history and genealogy and visited the Upper Peninsula every summer. He was a docent at the Michigan Historical Museum and was an active and supporting member of the Rotary.

Mrs. Cochran passed away last August.

Surviving Mr. Cochran are his sister, Nancy Major of Ann Arbor, and her two daughters, Susan and Marcia, and two grandnieces, Whitney McGoram of Detroit and Victoria Veit of Ann Arbor.

Muehlig Funeral Chapel in Ann Arbor handled arrangements.

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