Photos: Austin remembers Leslie

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by JADE MINGUS / KVUE NEWS and JESSICA VESS / KVUE News

Bio | Email | Follow: @JessicaV_KVUE

kvue.com

Posted on March 8, 2012 at 6:33 PM

Updated Monday, Mar 12 at 10:23 AM

AUSTIN -- A beloved Austin icon is gone. The man many simply called "Leslie" passed away at 1 a.m. Thursday.

Residents say Leslie Cochran was the epitome of "Keeping Austin Weird." With his passing many feel the city lost a piece of its soul.

Last month Leslie fell and hit his head. Since then he's been in the hospital and in hospice care, slipping in and out of consciousness. An outpouring of community support flooded his room. Those who stayed at his bedside tell us he woke up to see the many cards and messages people sent him in his final days.
 
“He understands how much people love him, and he was able to go in peace that way,” said close friend Debbie Russell.
 
Leslie dressed in women's clothes and wore makeup and high heels. Many feel he "looked the part" of Austin. That's what so many grew to love about him. On social networking sites many have shared their memories of Leslie. They say "Yes, Leslie was weird, but Leslie was kind."
 
“He represents just so much that is good about Austin. We're going to miss it, and that little part of Austin is now gone forever,” said Austin City Council Member Mike Martinez.  
 
Leslie first visited Austin in the late 1980s. He came back several times and decided to make Austin home in January of 1996.
 
Melissa Hanes met Leslie when he first moved to town; she had heard about him on the radio.
 
"There was a story about a man dressed up as a woman in a thong pushing across state lines in a shopping cart," Hanes said.

Leslie's friends believe his free-spirited message will survive beyond his death. 

"To keep Austin weird and to look at homeless people as individuals," Hanes said.

The mayor of Austin was expected to declare Thursday as 'Leslie Day' in Austin. The city council is now reconsidering moving that day to another time in honor of his passing.

There is also growing support to erect a statute in Leslie's honor. Bob Woody owns several clubs in downtown and East Austin. He says Leslie was a regular at Shakespeare's on 6th Street. 

"I don't think his shoes will be filled again just as Stevie Ray Vaughn's shoes weren't filled and haven't been," Woody said.
 
The City of Austin is now preparing to honor Leslie's memory. Those who knew Leslie best say they're organizing a "Love for Leslie Parade" beginning at City Hall's Free Speech Plaza and traveling down down 6th Street Thursday evening starting at 7:30 p.m.

The Austin community is invited to pay tribute to Leslie from 5 to 7 p.m. on Friday, March 9 in the Colonial Chapel at Cook-Walden Funeral Home, 6100 North Lamar in Austin. A Recitation of the Rosary will follow. The family requests this to be a dignified occasion of remembrance and prayer.

A public memorial service will be held on Sunday at 2:00 p.m. at Auditorium Shores.
 
A private ceremony will be held for Leslie's family and close friends.

If you have a photo with Leslie, send it to spotnews@kvue.com.

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