Jean Cochran, Southold Town’s first female supervisor and board member, has died. She was 85.
She died Feb. 16 of natural causes at her Southold home, her family said.
In her three terms as supervisor between 1996 and 2001, Cochran focused on preserving the environment and “Southold’s way of life,” which she described as one of her “finest accomplishments” in a 2000 inaugural speech.
Under Cochran’s leadership, the town rezoned properties along Route 48 to prevent commercial development and created new parks, including one that bears her name.
“She always put the town first,” said Joe Sawicki, the former chairman of Southold’s Republican Committee and former Suffolk County comptroller. “To Jean, the future of Southold Town and its rural quality of life was paramount.”
Cochran was born on Oct. 29, 1931, in Riverhead. She graduated from Riverhead High School in 1950, the year she married Carlisle Cochran. The couple, who were together for 62 years, had four children.
Cochran was a “superior athlete” in every sport from softball to archery to cheerleading, said her eldest son, Robert Cochran, of Southold.
“If there was something going on, she was usually in the middle of it,” he said. “And in a short amount of time, she was leading the pack.”
Before entering politics, Cochran worked at a drugstore in Southold and then served as president of the Suffolk County Girl Scouts between 1977 and 1982.
“Jean was strongly dedicated to the Girl Scout movement, and she will be sorely missed,” said Yvonne Grant, president and CEO of Girl Scouts of Suffolk County.
In 1984, Cochran was elected as a town trustee. The following year, the Republican became the town’s first female board member, serving from 1985 until 1990. She ran for town supervisor in 1995.
Cochran had to “break through ceilings” to become the first woman in that post, said Southold Town Councilwoman Louisa Evans, adding that being a woman in government should not be “a big deal.”
Described by friends as determined, sharp and warm, Cochran also volunteered for organizations such as the PTA and the Suffolk County Women’s Bowling Association.
“She just cared about people. It was part of who she was,” her son said.
Cochran occasionally hosted arts and crafts sessions at Town Hall and gave friends and co-workers handmade Christmas decorations because she was “very talented in that way,” said Town Clerk Elizabeth Neville.
Cochran retired after losing the 2001 supervisor election. She focused on spending time with her four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, Robert Cochran said.
Cochran also is survived by daughters Darcy Cochran, of Southold, and Janine Cochran of Florida, and son Carlisle, of Southold.
Funeral services were held Tuesday in the Chapel of the Defriest-Grattan Funeral Home in Southold, followed by interment in Willow Hill Cemetery there.
In lieu of flowers, the family requested donations be made to Southold Town for the benefit of Jean Cochran Park, Eastern Long Island Hospital and East End Hospice.