The Daily News/John Eby Paul Harris Fellow Charlie Gratz, Dowagiac Rotary Club President Barbara Groner, Dick Judd of the Dowagiac Rotary Charitable Foundation and Paul Harris Fellow Bob Cochrane June 21 at Elks Lodge 889. Gratz and Cochrane are the club’s 105th and 106th recipients since 1977.

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Gratz, Cochrane Paul Harris Fellows

Published 6:05pm Thursday, June 21, 2012

Dowagiac Rotary Club Thursday noon honored Bob Cochrane and Charlie Gratz as its 105th and 106th Paul Harris Fellows for club and community service.

Cochrane directs Cass County Council on Aging and has been a Dowagiac Rotarian since 2004. He transferred from Millard Rotary Club in Omaha, Neb., of which he is a former president.

Gratz joined Rotary in 1976 — the year before the club made Mayor Graham Woodhouse its first Paul Harris Fellow.

Each recipient of the award named for Rotary’s 1905 founder represents a $1,000 contribution to the foundation, to which Dowagiac has contributed $171,174, according to Dick Judd.

Gratz purchased Dreisbach’s and changed it to Gratz Chevrolet.

He does a “fine” job as sergeant-at-arms, succeeding Cochrane.

Bob Cochrane

Cochrane received his bachelor’s degree in language arts from the University of Kansas in 1970 and taught English for 14 years at high school, community college and university levels.

He also earned a master of arts in organizational communication from Fort Hays State University, Kan., and found time to marry, begin a family, coach debate teams and pursue his interest in the Argonne Rebels Drum and Bugle Corps in Grand Bend, Kan.

Cochrane left teaching in 1985 to take an executive position with the American Diabetes Association’s Kansas affiliate. The single parent met a Missouri executive named Mary, whom he married five years later. She’s originally from Paw Paw, so his COA position brought them “home.”

They share three daughters and four grandchildren, including twin boys born on Bob’s birthday, Pastor John Kasper said.

In 1992, Cochrane became executive director of Millard Public Schools Foundation in Omaha and joined Rotary, maintaining perfect attendance at weekly meetings for 10 years. His former club emailed congratulations.

“He has chaired our main fundraiser, our big 50/50 raffle, since he first proposed the project four years ago,” President Barbara Groner said.

Cochrane became a foundation director in 2008.

Charlie Gratz

After college Gratz designed parts programs for various car dealerships in Cincinnati.

After 15 years building Gratz Chevrolet, he sold the dealership on M-51 South to Haggin-Wimberley and became a financial advisor for Smith-Barney in Kalamazoo.

He met his wife, Carol, freshman year at Muskingum College in New Concord, Ohio. Their relationship has endured for more than 55 years and produced “Charlie’s angels” — three daughters, who were all present, and nine grandchildren.

Jim DeShazo of Jim D’s Body Shop invited Gratz to join Rotary.

Ron Gunn got to know Gratz through Monday Night Running Club at Southwestern Michigan College and passed around the photo of the first 96 marathoners who went to Honolulu in 1981 that appeared in Runner’s World magazine. Gratz is still a fixture at Steve’s Run, Rotary basketball tournaments and cross country invitationals.

“A lot of people think tall runners are fast,” Gunn said. “Charlie disputes that theory with two speeds — slow and dead slow. He got passed by a tree.”

Dentist Matt Cripe hoarse from attending a Romney rally, called Gratz “an enigma. His family is part of the ‘long magenta line’ of Muskingum, but he’s always yakking about Ohio State. As a dad, he was fiercely protective. We could never convince Jane to stretch curfew. As a grandfather, every time he sees Drew, he can’t wait to (matchmake) with his granddaughters. But I do know you’re a man everyone looks up to, and not because you stand head and shoulders above us. If you were a movie character, you’d be an Ent from ‘Lord of the Rings.’ Steady, strong and reliable.”

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