MOUNT VERNON — The life of the late Mount Vernon entrepreneur, musician and civic activist Richard A. Cochran was full of fond memories shared with family and friends who knew and loved him — but it’s his impact on improvements to the Memorial Building that leaves a lasting civic legacy of musical connectivity.
That legacy will be remembered during a one-time show Saturday, July 27 at 7:30 p.m. in the Memorial Building Theater with a one-night performance of “Summertime, an Evening with the Musicians of Knox County.” Directed by Alayne Wegner, a violinist who will be part of the performance, Summertime will feature some of Knox County’s best musicians playing songs from several musical genres — folk-style bluegrass to jazz to classical — offered by The Handsome Devils, Six Miles to Nellie, Fat Tuesday, Joshua Hill, and the aforementioned Wegner.
“This will be a showcase concert for local musicians that has narrative elements about what our local musical culture looks, feels and sounds like,” said Wegner, a 2017 Kenyon College graduate.
“What some people may not realize is there are people right under our nose, here in Knox County, who are high-quality musicians,” said Sara Lynn Kerr, executive director of the Knox County Memorial Building.
Kerr, who worked with Cochran when he owned The Alcove restaurant on Main Street from the mid-1970s through the mid- 1980s, said he was a musician himself of the rock music genre. She said he appreciated all forms of music and that is why, starting five years ago, he took on the task of revitalizing, promoting and renovating the Memorial Building in leading the Memorial Building Committee.
That included Cochran’s leadership in helping to raise funds for a building elevator, Kerr said, always one of the more expensive additions to any historical building’s restoration effort. The historic building was constructed starting in 1923 and completed in 1925, with four floors — each offering its own experience, including the main floor that is a war memorial to soldiers who sacrificed their lives for their country. The Memorial Building Committee offers event rental on all four floors, and Kerr said that has been a key to its revenue turn-around, in addition to the newly completed theater renovation that includes a new lights and sound system.
Though Cochran wasn’t a war veteran himself — being “too young for Korea but too old for Vietnam” — Kerr said he was fond of war veterans and supported their causes. He befriended members of the Amvets Memorial Post 95, was a member of the Rotary Club International, and was a 32nd Degree Mason at Mount Zion Lodge No. 9.
“He was also a World War I and World War II history buff,” Kerr said.
Kerr said Cochran co-owned and operated the Holiday Restaurant on South Main Street before owning The Alcove. He set high expectations for those he worked with, but always in a positive way that let you know he believed in your ability to do things, she said. He was vocal in the things he cared about, “obnoxious” but in a good way, with his obituary offering, “While his humor could sometimes be caustic, he was seldom left speechless.”
Cochran died in March and is survived by his family including Suzanne, his wife of 51 years, and their two sons.