Lived to the age of seventy-one
Inez at age seventy

Our mother was an avid "scrapbook journalist" with regard to her life, family, and many varied interests. Thus, in addition to our own recollections, we will attempt to convey a sense of Inez Cochran through her own writings and memorabilia. The following paragraphs are incomplete and lacking…sort of like a puzzle with missing pieces. It is our hope, however, that the picture is complete enough to recognize the strength, talent, and character that we were fortunate enough to experience firsthand.

Without a doubt, the most important facet of Inez’s life in her eyes was her family. She often discussed the fact that doctors told her early in her marriage that she could never have children. It was a traumatic experience for a few years, and fortunately for us, an incorrect diagnosis. Bill was born May 6, 1952, less than a month after Inez’s 26th birthday. Dave came along three years later on August 1, 1955. She was so thrilled when "Billy" was born that she kept a small journal during his early years of childhood. Her notes include lists of childhood firsts (outdoors – 4 weeks, smile – 5 weeks, crept – 4 months, tooth – 6 months, etc.) along with such observations as "very strong – and a real climber". By the time David arrived she was no less enthusiastic, just busier. Still, she managed to find enough time to note that "David says he eats ‘leggenchick’ instead of chicken leg, draws ‘sedigns’ instead of designs, and eats ‘seddert’ instead of dessert." Throughout our early years, Inez was a devoted mother...sometimes over-protective, often very nervous, but always focused on what she thought was best for her children. Beginning in our teen years, a series of unpleasant events (health problems, divorce, and the struggle for economic survival) interfered with the type of home life that Inez had worked so hard to provide. Both sons grew up, married, and moved away. Family contact was reduced to phone calls and holidays. Finally, after retirement, she was able to spend the kind of time with her children and grandchildren that she had largely missed out on for over twenty years. Her last three years in particular provided opportunities to visit Bill and Diane in Montana, move to Indiana to be near Dave and Cheryl, and participate in the lives of her grandchildren and step-grandchildren. Though Inez had many friends, many interests, and many responsibilities, she always considered raising her children to have been her most important job and her greatest success.

In a word, Inez’s greatest interest was simply - people. Besides keeping track of and in touch with a normally sized but highly distributed family, she was able to maintain many friendships from a wide variety of social circles. An inventory of the groups of people she stayed in contact with is impressive, much less a count of individuals. Besides the usual few close personal friends there were church friends, and office friends (including other Soil Conservation Service offices from all around the state), and bakery "coffee klatch" friends, and old Swea City friends from her youth, and apartment building friends, and old neighborhood friends, and so on. It would be easy to conclude, but inaccurate, that most of these relationships must have been fairly superficial. In fact, most of these friendships were built up in small, tightly knit communities (most notably Swea City and New Hampton, Iowa) over long periods of time. For most of the people in the above groups, Inez could tell you the names and approximate ages of their spouses and children, what their interests were, the good things that have happened in their lives, and the bad. Like many of us, she might have occasionally forgotten where she left her keys or how to work her VCR, but unlike most of us, she never forgot someone’s personal story. Her closest circle of friends was really more of an extended family. This was especially true after she was divorced and her kids moved away. Inez was one of the youngest and most active of a group of single women (mostly elderly widows) that watched out for and supported each other.

Other than family and friends, music played the most consistent and significant role of any influence in Inez’s life. The connections include:

  • a lifelong talent for creating music (choir, contralto solo, and clarinet in school, vocal & bell choirs, organ, and piano in church, and piano and vocals at more social gatherings than some professional musicians),
  • one of her longest adult friendships (with her High School music teacher – Shirley Samson (now Shirley Harty of Des Moines, IA),
  • her most treasured collection of records, tapes, and compact disks that were nearly always playing in her home.

Inez’s musical tastes were very wide ranging, but classical and popular music were undoubtedly her favorites. Strauss, Dvorak, Irving Berlin, the Jackie Gleason Orchestra, Natalie Cole, Yanni, and even such eclectic titles as Morning Song Birds, and Chants of Benedictine Monks were all welcome and listened to components of her extensive CD collection.

Other personal interests throughout life included:

  • Books – An avid reader of both fiction and non-fiction, Inez was particularly fond of romance novels and horoscopes. She would read virtually every night, often until the early morning hours. Her love of books also translated into a strong support for libraries. Inez worked as a volunteer at the New Hampton Public Library and donated many books throughout the years. In addition, she offered what money she could afford (from a modest single income) to help build the new library building. Though all of Inez’s children and grandchildren share this affection for books and libraries, it has always been most apparent in her eldest son, Bill. As a young child, he was an avid reader and collector of books and by early adulthood, he opted up to became a librarian (currently director of the Parmly Billings Library in Billings Montana). Inez followed his career very closely, and his choice of professions was a source of great satisfaction to her.
  • Travel – Beginning shortly after high school and continuing through most of her marriage, Inez traveled the mid-western and western United States fairly regularly (for that period of time). Some of the travel related to family (her parents and brother lived near Seattle and her in-laws lived near Phoenix). Many trips were relatively short (Des Moines, Rochester, Minneapolis, Cedar Rapids, Iowa City, Chicago, and many more) and often were a mixture of business for Joe (her husband) and a vacation for the family. Though Inez never ventured beyond Canada and Mexico, she read a great deal about and often discussed traveling to Europe, particularly areas of antiquity such as Rome and Athens. With her Norwegian heritage (the offspring of a Larson and a Bergeson), Inez also occasionally talked about visiting Scandinavia. In later years, however, she seemed content to watch travel shows and read about foreign places. Always a nervous traveler and possessing only a grudging tolerance for airplanes, Inez commented more than once that she may have enjoyed dreaming about distant places far more than actually traveling to them.
  • Art & Craft – Several times throughout her life, Inez dabbled with sketching and painting. She preferred watercolors, and was known to have a fondness for Claude Monet renditions of water lilies. (As a side note, it became a source of humor to her that a mildly expressed interest in Monet water lilies converted into a theme for many of her gifts for the next several birthdays, Christmases, etc. She had Monet prints, posters, diaries, books, and probably would have had an "I Love Monet" bumper sticker if it had been available around Mother’s Day. After that experience, she tended to be a bit more cautious about expressing too much interest in her little ceramic duck collection or her teapots, or … Once she actually received two or three little pigs – including one that was battery powered and could wander around her living room – before it was discovered that she hadn’t even been the one who mentioned liking pigs.) In addition to painting, Inez occasionally experimented with other forms of expression such as ceramics and crocheting.
  • Entertaining – Having come from a time and a culture that held social traditions – especially holidays – in high regard, Inez believed strongly in organized social gatherings. She loved to plan (though was often too busy and tense to really enjoy) holiday gatherings, birthday parties, theme dinners, afternoon coffee gatherings, and any other event that involved people, food, music, and conversation. Two things Inez often bemoaned about the younger generation were the loss of innocence (which she also regarded as a loss of romance), and the lack of social skills (or even the desire to formally interact with other people).
  • Royalty – Perhaps as the ultimate extension of the above views on romance and formal entertainment, Inez always maintained a fascination about the British Royal Family, other less notable Kings and Queens, and American Presidents and First Ladies. She briefly subscribed to a magazine devoted to the British Royal Family, collected paper doll books with royal costumes and First Lady Inaugural dresses, and amassed a fair collection of Princess Diana books and memorabilia after her untimely demise.
  • All Things Norwegian – Being a full blooded Norwegian (albeit second generation American) and growing up in Swea City, a small town whose name is even Scandinavian, Inez was strongly influenced by Norwegian culture. This mostly showed up in our household as decorative painted horses, insider jokes about Lutheran Church women, lefse, and a propensity to say "Uff-Da".

On the more serious side, Inez’s religious, social, and political views included:

  • Feminism – Inez was an early and vocal believer that the world was (and still is) a male dominated place with a vested interest in keeping women in subservient and dependent roles. For all of her nostalgia about earlier days where women were skilled at homemaking and social skills, she did not believe women today should trust and rely on men for income. This belief became stronger and more than a little bitter after her divorce and those of several close friends. This view was not helped by spending most of her working life in a variety of jobs never making more than a fraction of her boss’s income (or often even her male peers).
  • Conservation – Though she always had an interest in nature (particularly trees and birds) , Inez’s late life career with the U.S. Soil Conservation Service cemented a very strong belief in environmental protection and improved resource conservation. Even after retirement, Inez continued to volunteer her time to the government office that had helped her so much at a crucial time in her life, and that she had devoted herself to for nearly twenty years.
  • Church – Though raised within the Lutheran Church in Swea City, Iowa, Inez switched to the Methodist Church shortly after she was married. Throughout her life, she was generally active in church affairs ranging from singing in the choir and playing the organ to serving on the board of directors and many committees.
  • Republican/Democrat – Inez commented in recent years that she was a registered Republican and always assumed she held conservative beliefs, but was surprised to discover that she disliked most Republican Presidents and platform planks in recent years. She particularly disliked Ronald Reagan for a variety of reasons (not the least of which was his antipathy toward both the feminist and environmental movements). After 18 years of civil service and additional years of volunteer service, the Newt Gingrich / Rush Limbaugh message that we have a mostly corrupt and incompetent federal government did not play well in her household. She also thought that men should have little say in abortion issues, and that most recent tax relief was actually a scam to reward the wealthy. Her favorite presidents in recent years were Jimmy Carter and George Bush, mostly because neither was an extremist and both were civil, well mannered people.

As indicated above, it is not possible to capture the essence of a person in a few pages. Still, it has been a pleasure for us to provide this glimpse into the life and personality of Inez Cochran for other family, friends, and future generations to remember and enjoy.

Written by Bill and Dave Cochran.

Inez with her sons and daughters-in-law.

(clockwise from left)
Diane, Bill, Dave, Cheryl, and Inez.  Picture was taken in Terre Haute, IN during Oct. of 1996.
- photolink -

Inez at age twenty


This page last updated on December 26, 2009 .