Obituaries » William Walter Cochran Jr.
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August 24, 2022
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William Walter Cochran Jr.
Died at home peacefully on 08/24/2022 in Champaign, IL.
William “Bill” Cochran Jr. the only child of Letha (Cook) Cochran Taylor and William Walter Cochran, was born in
Chicago. IL. and lived in various places including Pittsburgh, PA, before returning to Illinois. He graduated from
Clinton Community High School, Class of 1950, also having attended University High in Normal.
After high school he joined the U.S. Navy and completed Boot Camp and Electronics Technician School at Great
Lakes Naval Station graduating 3rd in his class of 50. During his 4 years in the Navy, he attained the rank of Petty
Officer First Class and served as an Electronics Technician (ET) aboard the U.S.S. PCE (R) 849 seeing sea duty in
the Atlantic and Caribbean while stationed at the U.S. Naval Submarine Base in New London, CT.
After honorable separation from the Navy, he returned to Champaign-Urbana to start a family and enter the
University of Illinois College of Electrical Engineering. As an E.E. student Bill designed some of the very first radio
transmitters to be launched into orbit in our nation’s initial response to the Soviet’s Sputnik 1 satellite and radio
tracking equipment for wildlife researchers at the Illinois Natural History Survey.
Setting school aside Bill moved his family to Minnesota where, working for the University of Minnesota Museum of
Natural History, he developed an automated wildlife tracking system at the Cedar Creek Natural History Area
located just north of Minneapolis-St. Paul. Bill and family then returned to Champaign-Urbana where he accepted a
position at the Illinois Natural History Survey and completed his Engineering Baccalaureate degree. He spent the
majority of his career as a wildlife biologist/research scientist with the IL. Natural History Survey and in retirement
collaborated at The Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at the U of I.
As a pioneer in the development of radio telemetry equipment and techniques for the radio tracking of wildlife his
designs and manufactured equipment were used around the globe. His development of very light weight radio
transmitters and attachment methods that did not alter a bird’s behavior in any measurable way were, and still are
today, a key factor in the successful radio telemetry study of wildlife. Bill’s personal research was focused on bird
migration with the radio tracking study of species such as Albatrosses, a variety of hawks, e.g., Cooper’s and
Sharp-shinned, falcons, e.g., Peregrine, and thrushes, e.g., Swainson’s, Veery and Wood. His work in the field of
radio telemetry studies of wildlife led him to be featured in stories by a variety of local and national media outlets
such as the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and the Chicago Tribune which dubbed him “The Birdman of Illinois”. He
appeared in, authored, or co-authored articles in other print publications such as The National Geographic,
Readers Digest, Science, Science Digest, Integrative and Comparative Biology, Nature, National Academy of
Sciences (PNAS), Wildlife Society Bulletin, Wildlife Management and books such as Birds of Two Worlds: The
Ecology and Evolution of Migration, Wired Wilderness and Flight Paths: How a Passionate and Quirky Group of
Pioneering Scientists Solved the Mystery of Bird Migration. During his career he collaborated on projects with the
U.S. Air Force, U.S. Army, NASA and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as well as wildlife researchers around the
Bill was a ham-radio enthusiast, call sign W9JPN, and a tinkerer. His home was filled with antique radios and all
manner of electronic equipment, and he was always happy to help someone in need of a vacuum tube or other
obscure component no longer being manufactured.
He is survived by his wife Wilhelmina (Ambrosius) Lazarevich Cochran of Champaign, IL.
His children from his first marriage to Marilyn Jacobson Cochran Wilson: Marilyn Cochran (Marsha Daniels) of
Champaign, IL, Rebecca (Phillip) Katsinas of Champaign, IL, William (Gay Marie) Cochran III of Bloomington, IL, and
James (Brooke) Cochran of Dewey, IL.
His children from his second marriage: Courtney (Gary) Corda of Danville, CA and Claudia (Chuck) Tyler of Alamo,
Step-sons Peter Lazarevich of Tallahassee, FL and Alex Lazarevich of Champaign, IL.
He also leaves behind 12 grandchildren and 3 great grandchildren with one on the way.
He was a lifetime animal lover and his dog Sam survives him.
His family would like to thank the Carle Hospice Care staff, particularly his lead RN Desiree, and both at-home care
givers Elizabeth and Michelle for their compassionate care during the last months of his life. Thank you also to his
Tuesday Buddies, Aart, Ben, Jeff and Mike for being such great friends whose visits he truly enjoyed and looked
forward to until the end.
Bill requested no services. If you wish to make a charitable donation in his memory his wish was for them to go to
your local Humane Society/Animal Shelter, Doctors Without Borders or a charity of your choice.