Joan Cochrane has been a docent at Sutter’s Fort State Historic Park since 2017. We recently had the honor to bestow Joan with the True Friend Award in appreciation of her outstanding service to both Friends of Sutter’s Fort and California State Parks. 

How did you get involved?

I brought my class to Sutter’s Fort on my second try. I worked in a school that had Title 1 low-income students and I received a grant to come. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get enough volunteers to make the trip work the first time.

After that, I transferred schools and tried again. This time around I asked Jared Jones, ELP and ESP Coordinator with California State Parks, what I could do to get some helpers. The docents came through for me. I had volunteers for all our stations and the day was a wonderful success. I decided to take the docent training workshop so I could “make the magic happen” for other children.

I taught for 21 years and I loved teaching fourth-grade history and world history. My work at Sutter’s Fort makes it so I can tie all my interests together: history, world economics, cooking, sewing, games, recreation, and music are just a few of the things I can work in.

What’s your favorite part of volunteering?

I really enjoy working with all the wonderful students from all kinds of schools. I enjoy talking to visitors from around the world and speaking to people in German and Spanish. It really is wonderful when people get excited about the history of Sutter’s Fort and history in general. I like bringing a smile to our visitor’s faces and seeing them connect with Sutter’s Fort

What is it that you do in your role as a Sutter’s Fort volunteer?

I work with the school groups that come to Sutter’s Fort. I also work special events on the weekend (such as Demonstration Days and Hands on History) and play music on my dulcimer whenever possible. I usually work with students doing weaving, baking, or doll making. I also have enjoyed doing promotional spots for events at Sutter’s Fort for TV and working fundraising events for Friends of Sutter’s Fort. I’m exploring doing some more beer making demonstrations and exploring California’s agricultural history.

What’s one of your favorite memories?

Well, I think I am still making them. I have only been volunteering for about a year and a half. Every day is a fun day!

What do you like to do in your spare time when you are not volunteering?

I like to read, play the dulcimer, spend time with my family, and TRAVEL. I have been to Europe, China, Central America, Ecuador, and the Galapagos. I also enjoy visiting my children. My son is a crypto-linguist with the Air Force in Georgia and my daughter is in drama school in Southern California.

I enjoy historical murder mysteries, solving cryptogram/crossword puzzles and jumbles. I like hanging out with friends and drinking good coffee. I also make beer of all kinds and sew at home. I am dragging my feet on sewing my historical outfit though. The pattern is very intimidating.

Thank you, Joan, for making us laugh, and for your over 1,218 hours of volunteer service at the park! We appreciate everything you do — for us and for California State Parks! 

We are proud to support the volunteer efforts at Sutter’s Fort SHP with the help of our sponsor, Sutter Health.