Dorothy C. "Dottie" Cochran 1918-2000     


(As I remember Her)

by Coleen Mielke 2022

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Chugiak, Alaska was only about 3 years old when my parents homesteaded there in 1950. It was a rough and rugged community, with more than a handful of colorful characters, as you might imagine.

One of those "hard to miss" people was a woman named Dorothy Cecilia "Dottie" (Peckham) Cochran, born 1918 in New London, Connecticut; she came to Alaska in 1953.

Even as a child I knew Dottie was "different". She spoke with a loud voice; she talked like a man; she walked like a man; she wore men's clothes; her short dark hair was heavily greased and combed straight back and she swore like a sailor. At social gatherings, you could always find her over in the corner talking loudly to a group of men about "guy stuff" like construction or truck repair.

With that image in mind, I was startled recently when someone shared photos of Dottie in her early days. She was beautiful.

"Dottie"  Peckham  about 1940
Eldon French Family Photo Collection

Dottie was married to Oliver Edward "Corky" Cochran, a U.S.Army SSGT who served in WWII. Their first year in Alaska must have been a rough one, because not long after they arrived, Corky petitioned the Alaska courts to have Dottie declared insane. The judge agreed and she was sent to Morningside Mental Hosp
ital in Oregon. One week later, the court reversed its decision and Dottie came back to Alaska.

Dottie had quite an imagination. She told everyone that she had worked as a surgical and psychiatric nurse. I made extensive searches for any kind of nursing license for her, but never found one. The closest connection I could find, was that she worked as a maid in a Connecticut hospital in the spring of 1940.

Dottie Peckham in about 1940
Eldon French Family Photo Collection

When people in Chugiak jokingly questioned Dottie about her gender, she would laugh loudly and offer to "drop her drawers" and prove that she was indeed a female. She loved embarrassing men by overtly flirting with them; it didn't matter if they were young or old, married or single; she loved entertaining a crowd and nothing was too bawdy for Dottie.

If you lived in Chugiak in the 1950's, you probably have your own Dottie Cochran story to tell. The earliest one I can remember was the time my father did some excavation work at the Cochran's homestead. Dottie offered to pay him with "personal favors" (at least that's the way my mother politely explained it to me). My prudish father was mortified, but I'm sure Dottie got a big kick out of it.

A friend told me another classic "Dottie story": In the winter of 1956, her husband received a phone call from a friend who was worried about a woman screaming for help in the woods near his house; he asked the friend to come quickly and bring a gun, just in case. Upon arrival, they found Dottie and her husband (naked and very drunk) chasing each other around in the woods, threatening to kill each other.

Another story was about a man who went to the Cochran's house to borrow their home brew equipment. As the man was carrying the large ceramic crock out to his car, Dottie (knowing the man had his hands full), grabbed his genitals and hung on, much to his horror... and her delight.

Most men in the area knew better than to find themselves alone with Dottie. Those that had no choice (like the fuel oil delivery man), told stories about her asking him to "look at the beautiful view from her bedroom window", an offer he refused, but it never stopped her from making the repeated invitation.

On 4/15/1961, Dottie and her husband were on one of their drinking binges with another couple named Leroy and Rose Rogers. That afternoon, Dottie's husband took Mrs. Rogers back to her house, leaving Dottie and Leroy alone at the Cochran's. While they were gone, Dottie shot and killed Leroy Ransome Rogers.

Over the years, I heard different "versions" of why she killed Leroy. One scenario was that she was angry because he passed out on the couch and Dottie wasn't ready for the "party" to end yet. She decided to wake him up by shooting him in the arm.

Another version, published in the newspaper, that said Leroy had beaten Dottie because she stole his money, so she shot him in self defense.

According to the actual court records, the police suspected a different scenario when they found Mr. Rogers sitting in an easy chair with his legs crossed, as if he had simply fallen asleep, a cigarette still between his fingers. He was dead, shot twice, once in the shoulder and once in the chest with a 30.06 rifle; Dottie told police she did not remember pulling the trigger.
She was charged with first degree murder, but her lawyer (Wendell Kay) managed to get the charges reduced to manslaughter and she served her sentence at Morningside Mental Hospital in Oregon.

When Dottie's husband, Corky Cochran, died in 1981, Dottie's drinking problems increased until the doctors gave her a stern warning about her health and she sobered up. After that, she was known to call the fire department for help, telling them that she was "in a bad way". They would take her to Anchorage in an ambulance, and as soon as she got there, she would instantly "recover". After a few of these false alarms, the fire department had a serious talk with Dottie and she stopped calling them.

In her final years, Dottie was cared for by a hospice nurse who said that Dottie continued to say that she had worked as a nurse at Morningside Mental Institution and that she was responsible for giving Humphrey Bogart's sister electroshock therapy............sounds like a classic "Dottie Cochran story", for sure.

Rest in Peace Dottie Cochran, you were definitely
one of Chugiak's colorful pioneers.

Dottie Cochran  1987

Mongeau Family Photo Collection


Oliver Edward "Corky" Cochran 1909 - 1981
Dorothy Cecelia "Dottie" (Peckham) Cochran 1918 - 2000





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