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Thomas Haynes Cochran

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Thomas Haynes Cochran of Williamstown died on March 12, 2024, surrounded by his children and his wife of 40 years. 

Tom grew up in Northampton with his beloved brothers Phil and Joe Cochran, his adopted brother, Kosta Taralinkoff, and his parents, David and Mary Cochran. He attended Hoosac School in Hoosick, N.Y., where he later became a beloved teacher and dean of students in 2007. He was a kind and strong supporter of all students. He was devoted to the school and made a positive difference in the lives of many people.

His higher education took him to Minnesota, Alaska, and later, Amherst. He began playing guitar, which would be his primary mode of expressing his love for his family for the rest of his life. Tom was an excellent classical guitarist and composed gorgeous and complicated pieces for his family members. Tom and his wife Meredith built many gardens together on the family farm in Hancock, where he worked so hard to keep the crabgrass from taking over.

He smelled like pine trees, hard work, gasoline, and old books. He had big strong arms and incredible hair, and was over 7 feet tall (we think). He was indescribably cool. We compared him to Dirty Harry and Abe Lincoln, and he would growl and roll his eyes at this. He could build incredibly beautiful things out of odd pieces of wood. He always knew who "that actor" was, and what movie we knew them from. He was the tickle monster to us kids, nightly turning into the most exciting and terrifying boogeyman who would deliver the itchiest, scratchiest bearded kisses. He made us shriek and laugh until our sides hurt when he pretended to close his eyes and take his hands off his truck's steering wheel. He hated snow and he loved the blues.

He always took naps, and laid a delicate "booty" (bandana) across his eyes when he did so. He was a hard worker, and long days on the farm were only broken up by a short nap and PB&J. Animals were drawn to him because he was safe and trustworthy and kind. At night, he softly played guitar in the back room, surrounded by tiny important objects, pictures, and keepsakes strewn across his desk and on the walls. He built stone walls, and spent hours scouring the bottom of Lake Ozonia for the perfect rock to place atop the lake monster's body in the shallows near the camp. He unflinchingly reached down his 4-year-old son Charles' throat to retrieve a swallowed quarter. He made us pancakes on Sunday morning and pizza on Sunday night. He always did the dishes after dinner while listening to one of his hundreds of cassette tapes. Sometimes his guitar picking nails were fortified by bright colored nail polish. He nurtured our interests and encouraged us to be weird, but not too weird.

He was an incredible teacher and taught English, history, science, and an extracurricular that taught students to be yeomen of their domains, cultivating gardens or building rock walls. Once, a boa constrictor escaped from his classroom, and we waited outside the dark closet where he went searching, after telling us to "keep an eye out." He was modest and magnetic. He composed songs for us on his guitar. Long before the point at which dinner parties become boring for children, he was sitting at the kid's table inventing games, stories, and distractions. He sat patiently each morning while his 8-year-old daughter hamfistedly painted his face, then dutifully painted her own, expertly transforming her into a tiger or a clown. He let you make up words in Scrabble so long as you could define them.

He played guitar every day until arthritis made playing too painful. He was gentle and had unbelievable grit. He could fix anything including very old houses, old tractor wagons, and taught himself to be a master mechanic. Tom loved his 1948 8N Ford tractor and kept the farm's fields perfectly mowed year after year even while undergoing treatment for cancer.

He was the strongest person we've ever known, enduring and overcoming incomprehensible health challenges, defying the expectations of almost every single one of his doctors. He always chose the hard thing, he always chose to stay. We don't think he always knew how to tell us he loved us, especially after he lost the use of his voice, but he always
showed us.

He leaves behind his wife, Meredith; son, Charles; daughter, Hannah; brother Joe, and dogs Lulu, Harry, and Bessie. His family and his beloved dogs miss him beyond measure. He tried so hard to stay with us and we love him for that.

Recollections & Sympathy For the Family
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Meredith and family I'm so sorry to hear of the loss of your husband/father. May your memories sustain you until you all meet again.With Love ,Cindy
from: Cindy (Pecor)Schneider on: 04-02-2024

This is a fantastic obituary and tribute to a man and his life that by all appearances was incredibly well lived. I did not know Mr. Cochran, but I now wish I did. Looks like you all have plenty to keep him in your memories. Condolences.
from: J Cooperon: 04-01-2024

I had the Honor of Calling Tom my teacher for 4+ years. I would say he was the best teacher I ever had but cannot only because I had my own father as a teacher at the same school! He was an incredibly kind and gentle person who could at times be a fierce and firm fighter for his students. His passion for music often bled over to his spare time with us at the school. What a great man who has left a massive impact on countless youth. I loved his European literature class Junior year. Any time I ever see anything regarding Beowulf I Imagine Tom in the court of Hrothgar. RIP my friend. thank you for everything.
from: Brandon Burnson: 03-29-2024

I did not know this man but feel like I do now; what a beautiful tribute that was written, I couldn't stop reading it and felt the love you have for hime...God bless.
from: Mikkion: 03-29-2024

Meredith and Family, I am so sorry for your loss. Tom seemed like an amazing husband and dad.
from: Anthony Archambaulton: 03-28-2024

Dear Meredith,
I am deeply sorry for you loss. I am thinking of you and your family during this sad time. Holding you in the light and my heart
from: Nancy bulletton: 03-28-2024