BERRYVILLE — A local lumberyard owner and the chairman of the Clarke County Industrial Development Authority died in a tractor accident on his property Saturday night.
Mark Kendall Cochran was removing brush on his property at 785 Springsbury Road when a tree limb he moved crushed him, according to Chief Deputy Travis Sumption of the Clarke County Sheriff's Office. Sumption said Cochran's family found him about 12:30 a.m. Sunday and called police.
The accident is believed to have happened sometime after 7:30 p.m. when Cochran left his home. "It was a tragic accident," Sumption said.
Cochran, 59, grew up in Bluemont in Loudoun County where he and his brother Larry Cochran learned woodworking from their father Ralph Cochran. They opened Cochran's Lumber and Millwork there in 1978. The business moved to an approximately 60,000-square-foot building at 523 Jack Enders Blvd., in 2003. The company converts reclaimed wood from old barns into planks for hardwood floors.
"You really can't separate the business from the Cochran family," Ben Cochran said about his father Larry Cochran and uncle Mark Cochran in a video on the company's website. "They are there every day continuing to invest in our people and the processes that we do."
Cochran joined the authority in 2011, according to Lora Walburn, executive assistant to county Administrator David Ash. The authority helps shape economic development in the county and its duties include buying and selling properties and issuing bonds. Authority members are appointed by the Board of Supervisors and serve four-year terms.
Cochran was vice-chair from 2015-16 and became chairman last year. Walburn described him as "conscientious, dedicated and well-respected."
Acting chairman Brian Ferrell met Cochran when he joined the authority board in 2017. He said some of the efforts Cochran was involved with included networking with Winchester officials to promote area economic development and trying to bring an upscale hotel to Berryville to promote tourism. In October, the authority approved spending up to $10,000 for a study about the proposed hotel.
Ferrell said he hit it off with Cochran because they both grew up in Loudoun County and they had friends there in common. When they weren't talking business, Ferrell said the two sometimes discussed farming. Cochran sold hay on his property in his spare time.
Ferrell said it was gutsy of Cochran to move his business from Loudoun County to Berryville. He also appreciated how Cochran and members of the congregation at the Hamilton Baptist Church, which Cochran attended since 1983, often prayed for him when he underwent an organ transplant.
"He was a total, straightforward, honest guy. People like that are hard to find," Ferrell said. "He'll be missed by the board for sure. He was a great leader."
Because he loved his job, Cochran had no retirement plans, according to his wife Dawn Cochran who married him in 1981. Much of his spare time was spent at the church where he was a keyboardist and pianist accompanying the choir and in a praise band. Cochran, the church's choir director since 1983, said her husband was also a church elder, deacon and Sunday school teacher.
Dawn Cochran described her husband as caring, generous, humorous and thoughtful and said he tried to live by his Christian principles. She said she found some solace knowing her husband's death was instantaneous. Cochran was also comforted by the outpouring of support from people who said her husband profoundly influenced their lives.
"I'm strong in my faith and I know that the Lord was calling him home," she said. "I'm still in shock and grieving and miss him terribly, but I know the life that he did live was for the Lord and to be a witness."
— Reporter Mickey Powell contributed to this story.