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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Happy birthday Grandma!

Exactly one hundred years ago today, the first of my four grandparents was born.

Gertrude (Trudy, she hated to be called Gertrude) Coral Cochran was born in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania. Her father was a dentist, Dr. Ira Cochran; her mother, Luella Coral Cochran, was the eldest daughter of Frank and Martha Jane (Bankert) Farmer.

Trudy was the third surviving child of five; one older sister died before age five. Interestingly, the four children who survived to adulthood were born five years apart. The sister who died, Hope, was born less than two years after the eldest daughter, Aline. I suspect, but cannot prove, that the loss of their second child caused Ira and Luella to deliberately spread the other births apart. Perhaps childbirth was harder on Luella than it is on most women.

At some point, probably before she was ten years old, the Cochrans relocated to Kernersville, NC, ostensibly because the colder northern climate was causing Ira to have health problems. Ira's sister, Jesse, and her husband also moved south at that time. That family's name was McCorkle. Family lore has it that the family lived in a chicken house when they arrived, while waiting for their home to be completed.

When Trudy was thirteen years old, Dr. Cochran had a stroke and died, leaving Luella to finish raising the youngest three children on her own. Census records indicate that she took up "truck farming" to support herself and the children.

Trudy's oldest sister Aline and her children had moved south with the rest of the family, and lived nearby. Another sister, Jean, five years older than Trudy became a librarian in Augusta, Georgia, where she was instrumental in the growth of that city's public library system in the later half of the 20th century. The youngest child, Ira Lee, Jr. served in the Merchant Marines during the war and became an independent truck driver thereafter.

Trudy graduated from Guilford College in about 1936 or 37, and went to work teaching in Greensboro and/or Guilford County schools, a career that lasted well into the 1970s. She spent most of those years, if not all of them, teaching fourth grade.

In 1938 Trudy married Vernon E. Coltrane, a scion of one of the oldest families in the region. The union produced one child, my mother, before Vernon left to serve in India during WWII, followed by three more, a daughter and two sons after the war. From these children came six grandchildren, and as of last count, six great-grandchildren.

Grandma Coltrane left us on June 11, 2000. She died quietly of a heart attack while riding to church with Vernon and a friend. Gone but never forgotten, her life continues to inspire her descendants to this day.

Happy birthday, Grandma, we miss you.

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