Obituary: Janet McLellan Cochran
April 18, 1945 – February 19, 2023
After a long illness Jan Cochran, beloved wife, friend, teacher and supporter of the Aspen community, passed away in her home the morning of February 19, 2023.
Jan was born April 18, 1945, to Harry and Jean McLellan in Aberdeen, Washington. When she was very young her family moved to West Seattle because her father’s work building landing barges for the Pacific coast during World War II was completed. Jan graduated from West Seattle High School in 1963. At the University of Puget Sound she was a member of the Gamma Phi Beta sorority. A semester abroad in her junior year took Jan to Vienna, where she loved attending opera and eating lemon pastries. While in Europe she traveled to Paris, Rome, Budapest, and Berlin – and was thrilled to ski in the Alps. After receiving her Bachelor’s Degree in Education in 1967, Jan wasted no time in coming to Colorado where, in the fall of 1967, she began her first and only career teaching job with Aspen School District. As the years passed, Jan was both shocked and delighted when she discovered some second generations of 2nd, 3rd, and 4th graders in her classroom. She completed her master’s degree in Remedial Reading at the University of Northern Colorado in 1975. With over 30 years of teaching in Aspen, Jan’s legacy includes hundreds of beloved students and their families. Jan retired from teaching in 2000, but stayed on to mentor teachers and assist as a substitute until 2007. For two years Jan enjoyed teaching Three-Dimensional Art Classes right in her neighborhood at Anderson Ranch.
In her first winter here, Jan decided to take an Abnormal Psychology class in Aspen through Adams State College, where she met a tall, handsome 1960’s ski bum named Ned Cochran. Their friendship began to blossom when they bumped into each other in a lift line on Aspen Mountain. They rode the lift together – and the rest is history. Ned was captured by Jan’s unbridled enthusiasm for skiing and for life. ‘All weather – all trails’ was her motto! Ned was deeply impressed with her passion for/ability to ski. Her radiant smile, her relentless determination, and her happy, energetic personality stole Ned’s heart.
Ned recently came across a love letter he had written to Jan when she went with girlfriends to ski in Jackson Hole one year over spring break. Ned realized the depth of his love for Jan and, although he was afraid to propose for more years than he wants to admit, he finally did. Ned and Jan married on August 18, 1976, in Jan’s parent’s back yard in west Seattle. They honeymooned at a friend’s cabin in Minnesota where their lifelong passion of sailing was born. They returned to Aspen and ‘lived a life of bliss.’ (quote from Ned).
From there on Jan and Ned became faithful volunteers at the Gift Kiosk of the Music Festival, at Dance Aspen, Pitkin Country Library, and at the Ski Swap. Jan was instrumental in securing cross-country ski equipment from Bob Wade for the students in Aspen Elementary School. People were impressed with her great enthusiasm and by the way Jan embraced activities and projects. Jan and Ned served faithfully as Election Judges in Snowmass Village for many years. In 1981 Jan and Ned moved to Snowmass Village where Jan sang in the choir at the Snowmass Chapel and Ned played bells.
Following brain surgery for an AVM, Jan suffered a stroke in 1989, yet her determination ‘and moxy’ (another quote from Ned) helped her to regain speech, strength, and movement. Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease began for Jan in the late 1990’s. Although the Roaring Fork Valley didn’t offer comprehensive Parkinson’s care, Jan’s passion for skiing, her closeness with many friends here, and her love for this valley fueled her desire to remain in Snowmass Village and stay the course. In the following years, Jan’s determination and enthusiasm never wavered. She refused to give in. Tremendous support and loving care from compassionate and skilled physical therapists of Bridging Bionics extended Jan’s mobility improved her quality of life. These dedicated physical therapists accompanied Jan and Ned on their journey with Parkinson’s – the gift of that is immeasurable. Upon Jan’s Parkinson’s diagnosis in 2004, Ned promised he would be at her side, and she would never be alone in facing this disease – a promise he kept until February 19, 2023.
Jan was preceded in death by her parents. She is survived by her devoted husband, Ned, her aunt Roberta Tomkinson, cousins in California, Oregon, Illinois, Texas, West Virginia, and many hundreds of former students and friends. Donations in Jan’s honor and memory may be made to Bridging Bionics, the Michael J. Fox Foundation, or Pathfinders. A celebration of Jan’s life will be held in late spring in Snowmass.
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