Bette Cochran Reeves, 87, passed away at home on Sept. 21, 2020, after an almost three -year battle with inflammatory breast cancer.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, graveside services will be held at Memorial Park Cemetery at 1 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 4, in Columbia. Please social distance and wear a mask. Everyone who would like to come is invited; this is not just a family-only event. We also plan to have a traditional memorial service sometime next year when it is safe to gather, at which event we would love for you to share all your stories and memories of Bette.
Bette was born July 16, 1933, in Smith Town, McCreary County, Kentucky, in what is now the Daniel Boone National Forest. She was the fifth of eight children of Orville and Lona (Worley) Barnett. Her father was a coal miner and a union organizer, and life under those conditions was a struggle for the family.
When she was 9 years old, her family moved to Benton Harbor, Michigan, for better opportunities working in the factories (including Whirlpool) during World War II. Bette was an excellent student; she was voted president of her senior class and Berrien County Fair Queen. While in high school, an attack of appendicitis sent her to the hospital and inspired her career choice. While her mother encouraged her to apply for a job working in the Whirlpool factory, she knew she wanted a profession as a nurse. After graduating from Benton Harbor High School, she attended a nursing program at Mercy Hospital in Benton Harbor on scholarship, becoming an RN.
She met Donald Cochran when he was a medical intern and she was a student nurse in Michigan. After their engagement, during which time Don served for 18 months in the U.S. Army in South Korea, they married in Benton Harbor on June 18, 1955. The couple moved to St. Louis, where Bette worked at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. In December 1958, they moved to Columbia so Don could begin his career as a radiologist and professor at the MU School of Medicine, which had been transformed into a 4-year medical program a year or two before.
While raising her five children, Bette worked actively in various local organizations, including many years as a Cub Scout Den Mother. In her 40s, she decided to return to college to complete her bachelor’s degree. In 1975, she graduated with honors from Stephens College with a degree in psychology and counseling.
In fall 1981, she and other local women started a Columbia chapter of Community Bible Study. Bette served as teaching director for CBS for 13 years, ministering to hundreds of women during that time.
On Oct. 13, 1987, her husband Don died unexpectedly. She felt she would never love again, but in the summer of 1994 she was introduced by a mutual friend to Earl Reeves, president of Missouri Valley College in Marshall and a very recent widower. After a lightning speed courtship, they married on Nov. 5, 1994.
Through her marriage to Earl, Bette was thrilled to gain two additional daughters, another son and many more grandchildren, all of whom she loved just as much as she loved her own.
Both Bette and Earl had a heart for international missions and served as missionaries with Community Bible Study International in Asia, Australia and New Zealand. They eventually traveled to at least 10 countries over six years to meet Christians in these countries and establish local in-depth Bible studies in the countries’ native languages and cultures.
Bette was preceded in death by her parents, six brothers, one sister and her first husband.
She is survived by her husband, Earl Reeves of Columbia; her five children, Cindy (Jess) Leyva of Columbia, Don (Sandy) Cochran of Nashville, David (Angela Calcaterra) Cochran of Herrin, Illinois, Steve (Patricia) Cochran of Austin, Texas and Libby (Andrew) Beauchamp of Franklin, Tennessee; her three stepchildren, Barbara (Ron) Crain of Goltry, Oklahoma, Greg Reeves of Columbia and Carolyn (Gary) McColpin of Tulsa, Oklahoma; 24 grandchildren, Jen, Heather, Ryan, Katherine, Quin, Jessica, Ian, Rachel, Kelson, Bailey, Coleman, Luke, Seth, Ellie, Josh, Nathan, Andrew, Natalie, Cara, William, Andrea, Kathleen, Sarah and Michelle — each of whom she knew individually and loved deeply; and eight great-grandchildren (with at least one more on the way).
Bette was a devoted wife in two long and happy marriages. She was a loving mother and grandmother who delighted in her large, blended family. She possessed a wonderful sense of humor and was always ready to laugh, especially at herself. She had a wide circle of friendships, many of which she maintained for well over half a century. She was a mentor and “second mom” for many women.
She was a longtime member of Evangelical Free Church (now Compass), and her relationship with her Lord Jesus was deep and precious to her. She had a strong sense of justice, never failing to stand up for what she believed was right. She once asked the question, “How did a little girl from the hills of Kentucky get to live such a life?” She lived that life with a grateful heart and never failed to count her blessings.
“Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”
The family would like to thank The Senior Company, particularly Kari and Elise, and Bette and Earl’s granddaughter Andrea for their loving and compassionate care over the last couple of years.
Because we will not be having indoor services, we request no flowers. In lieu of flowers, please consider donating in Bette’s memory to one of the following organizations, all close to her heart:
Community Bible Study International, Ministry Service Center, Community Bible Study, 790 Stout Road , Colorado Springs, CO 80921-3802 (CBSI on memo line, include Bette’s name, your own, and your address), or www.communitybiblestudy.org/donate.
The Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri, 2101 Vandiver Drive , Columbia, MO 65202.
Compass Evangelical Free Church, 600 Silvey St., Columbia, MO 65203.
Online condolences may be shared at memorialfuneralhomeandcemetery.com.