Feeling blissful in Cochrane
COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
The other day I was randomly enjoying some online photos by Cochrane-area folks when I came across a beautiful shot of a pair of deer with a title that caught my attention: “Feeling blissful in Cochrane.” To my delight, it was taken by a friend to many of us, Canadian Wrestling Hall of Famer and Cochrane community-builder extraordinaire, Dan Kroffat.
I immediately contacted Dan about other photos he’d taken around our wonderful foothills town, as well as what he meant by “blissful in Cochrane.” Here’s a bit of his story.
The first thing Dan did was to share a couple more of his photos with me: a pair of horses grazing, and a west-facing scenic across Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park. All three shots were taken just northeast of town. And their importance for Dan? They spoke of blissfulness, of vision for a beautiful community.
“The beauty is that we work together,” he said. “It’s not about what we can’t do, but what we can do – about volunteerism, team approach. It’s about grass roots initiatives that benefit the whole community. I looked at the beauty around us and thought to myself, ‘Why can’t we as the Town of Cochrane be beautiful, too?’”
In his earlier days Dan gained fame by wresting his opponents to the mat. His vision now at age 76 is to be “remembered for making people’s lives better.” And how has he been doing that during the past five years as a Cochrane resident?
Most of us are aware of his volunteering as chair of this year’s Mayor’s Invitational golf tournament, which raised $81,000 for new seniors’, youth and event centres. Then there was his fundraising for Martin Parnell’s Right to Play, and his more visible volunteering at the Cochrane Outhouse Races, as well as many other charitable projects, such as Activettes, playgrounds, and theft-proof poppy boxes.
But it’s Dan’s heartfelt commitment to acknowledging the contributions of others that has especially caught my attention. He’s the visionary behind Cochrane’s Community Builder Awards, a fundraiser for worthy area causes. Awards so far have recognized the outstanding contributions of Jack Tennant, Bearcat Murray, Alex Baum, and Tom Jackson (yet to be presented).
But as we all know, life isn’t always blissful. Indeed, there are moments when darkness tries to prevail over the light. Such are the times when bitterness can take us to the mat of life. Dan is no stranger to such moments.
Thirty-seven years ago this month, while working as a prison guard at a B.C. correctional institution on Vancouver Island, Dan was taken hostage, shot in his left arm and shoulder, and left to die. Fortunately for all of us, he was able to stop his profuse bleeding and eventually get rescued.
He returned briefly to professional wrestling with Stu Hart’s Stampede Wrestling, but soon opened his own used-car dealership in Calgary.
But it was that bullet to his arm 37 years ago that marked a major turning point for Dan. He redeemed that ugly shot with beautiful shots of our beloved Cochrane area now – deer, horses safely grazing, the Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park, and the community-building contributions of a valley blessed with beautiful people.
Thank you, Dan, for inspiring the rest of us, too, to feel blissful in Cochrane.
© 2021 Warren Harbeck