Yvonne Sursock Cochrane

Yvonne Sursock Cochrane

Yvonne was as old as Lebanon… She was born around the birth of Greater Lebanon, and she refused to leave this world, until it celebrated its 100 years. Yvonne, who sustained serious injuries in the August 4 Beirut blast, died on August 31, 2020.

She was the only daughter of Alfred Bey Sursock and Italian Donna Maria Theresa Serra di Casino. She was the heir of the aristocratic Sursock family in Naples, Italy. She lost her father when she was two, and returned with her mother to Lebanon. She grew up around her Aunt Isabelle, a young widow who made sure her niece would inherit the family Sursock Palace.

She was a beautiful child, she was pampered, and she enjoyed many privileges. She attended school between Lebanon and England. She met Sir Desmond Cochrane in 1946. He was an army officer, stationed in the Middle East. She married him despite her family's reservations. She became Lady Cochrane, and lived in the Palace that was built by her grandfather in 1860. She had four children, Marc, Alfred, Rodrigue and Isabelle. She followed long distance courses in urban planning. She became an environmental expert, and founded and presided the Association for Protecting Natural Sites and Old Buildings in Lebanon (APSAD). She remained its honorary president for years. She also lobbied and advocated for arts, heritage, and citizenship.

Her personality was a merge of culture and languages. She was always in control, she was opinionated, smart, and ambitious, which made things pretty hard for people around her. She was an interesting and intriguing grandmother for her seven grandchildren, and six great grandchildren. She would tell mesmerizing stories, and had a sharp vision for the future.

On the day of the explosion, she was sitting on the Palace's balcony, facing the Port of Beirut. According to her son Rodrigue, she fell to the floor and sustained multiple injuries. They did not find a hospital that would admit her in Beirut, and she was admitted at a hospital in Aley, where she stayed for two weeks, after which she was discharged to her son's home, because the Palace was completely destroyed.  Her condition deteriorated over the next week, she returned to the hospital and died three days later. She felt the Palace was affected by the blast, but she did not know the enormity of the situation. Had she known, she would have died immediately.

Lady Cochrane summed up 100 years of a country in her lifetime. She was the oldest victim of the Beirut blast.

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