Friends, admirers gather to remember Leslie

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by JIM BERGAMO/KVUE News and Photojournalist JUSTIN TERRY

kvue.com

Posted on March 8, 2012 at 10:29 PM

Updated Thursday, Mar 8 at 11:42 PM

AUSTIN -- People gathered Thursday evening to celebrate the life of a man considered the epitome of "Keeping Austin Weird."

Leslie Cochran died Thursday morning in hospice care.  He was 60.

Leslie's health had declined since a serious head injury in 2009.  Three weeks ago, he fell and hit his head again.  He was hospitalized and moved into hospice care recently, slipping in and out of consciousness.   An outpouring of community support flooded his room.  Those who stayed at his bedside said he woke up to see many of the 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 Debbie Russell, a close friend of Leslie.

Cochran, famous for dressing in women's clothes and high heels, was seen frequently throughout the city.  He first visited Austin in the late 1980's.  He came back several times and decided to make Austin home in January 1996.  He even ran for Austin mayor in 2000 and received eight percent of the vote.

Thursday evening, friends and admirers walked in the wet and cold from City Hall to 6th Street to remember the Austin icon.

"I will miss him because he was a big part of my life and he was a big part of being in Austin and he was a big part of what Austin grew to be because of him, because of the 'Keep Austin Weird' movement and he was certainly the epitome of keeping it weird," said Adam Callaway, who participated in Thursday's procession. 

Cedric Bridgewater moved to Austin from Louisiana ten years ago.  He remembers the first time he saw Leslie.

"My first day off the bus, I ran into Leslie and I was like, 'What in the world did I get into?'," said Bridgewater.  "I just love how (Austin residents) embrace the weirdness and Leslie was just a big part of that."

Many who took part in the "Love For Leslie" parade was determined to make it a happy occasion, because they said it's what Leslie would have wanted.

"I am not going to miss him.  He is right here," said Helen Oldenburgh-Hopkins.  "Heaven is where your heart is and he is just keeping Heaven a little weirder.  I'm sure my mother is going to teach him how to play bridge!" 

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.

Jade Mingus and Jessica Vess also contributed to this report.

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