Leslie left his mark on Austin’s people

AUSTIN (KXAN) – Austin streets may never be the same without him. Friends gathered Thursday to mark the passing of Leslie Cochran, but there were only memories and laughter, no tears. Leslie would have wanted it that way.

He was known for his dresses and thongs, his runs for mayor and his easy-street philosophy.

At City Hall, it was declared “Leslie Day.”

“He was an icon for the homeless in Austin, he represented them in so many ways. We will observe a moment of silence in his honor,” said Mayor Lee Leffingwell.

At Book People, there was a run on those popular Leslie magnetic stickers. You can get a set for a $10 donation that will go to a memorial fund, which may establish a park bench or statue in Leslie’s honor.

“As long as I have magnets I will happily take the $10 and put it in the fund,” said Book People manager Steve Bercu. “We’ve sold thousands of these over the years. They’ll be collectors’ items soon because this is it. There’s not going to be anymore.”

By Thursday afternoon, there were nearly 75,000 page views on the Cochran obituary posted on KXAN.com.

In South Austin, those who knew him best gathered to reminisce. Cochran may have affected their lives more than they did his.

Valerie Romness, who stood by Cochran to the end, said, “The biggest thing I learned from Leslie is it’s not what happens, it’s what you do with it. That’s a very powerful thing I’ve incorporated in my life.”

Cochran wasn’t homeless entirely. He often crashed at Liz Purcell’s home.

“He was not allowed in my house unless he wore a dress because of the children in the neighborhood and he always respected that,” Purcell smiled. “Leslie on the outside was a show, it’s how he raised money. But knowing him intimately he was a kind, kind man. He helped me so many times. He was kind and intelligent, one of the best men I’ve ever had in my life.”

Cochran often brought Purcell gifts, and he never forgot to bring treats for her two dogs, Puddles and Midnight. They’ll miss him too.

A portrait of Cochran painted by Michael Peschka will be auctioned off via the “Love for Leslie” Facebook page, with all proceeds going to help pay for Cochran’s final expenses, according to Peschka, founder at The Homeless Project.

A public tribute for Cochran is schedule for 5 to 7 p.m. on Friday in the Colonial Chapel at Cook-Walden Funeral Home, 6100 N. Lamar Blvd. A recitation of the Rosary will follow.

The family requests this to be a dignified occasion of remembrance and prayer.

“Leslie was a compassionate soul who respected and loved everyone,” his family said in a statement. “We will forever be in debt to the people of the city of Austin for the love and respect you showed him.”

The funeral and burial at Cook-Walden Capital Park Cemetery will be private.

There also will be a memorial service in Cochran’s honor on Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Fanny Davis Gazebo along Auditorium Shores.