VALDOSTA -- An appearance at a Valdosta nursing home Saturday proved that Elvis is alive and well.

Dressed in a red jumpsuit and cape accented with a gold belt, Elvis, more commonly known as Bill Cochran, 57, sung Elvis classics -- both secular and gospel favorites -- while working his charm to almost every woman in the Crestwood Nursing Home cafeteria, choosing dance partners, crooning to a few, offering a simple touch to others.

And, from the indication of the audience, they were enjoying the event, some singing along or dancing in their seats.

At the end of his performance, Cochran spoke a little about his company, God's Operation Love, and about God's love. That was one of three performances he had scheduled for Saturday. The second was scheduled at neighboring Holly Hill, and another engagement was in Thomasville.

Cochran and his assistant, Betty Jo Darch, constantly travel the state, performing in nursing homes. In fact, Sheila Matchett, activities director at Crestwood, said Cochran and Darch asked her about performing at the nursing home, with payment just enough so they can travel to other locations.

"I get the satisfaction of helping put a smile on people's faces," Cochran said about his choice of performing in nursing homes. "All of us need to know we're loved."

Cochran said ever since he was a teen, he enjoyed listening to Elvis and performing his tunes. But it was the death of his son a few years ago that caused him to dedicate his life to God. He said he wanted reassurance that his son was in heaven, and promised God that if he produced a sign confirming that, he would dedicate his life to him. A few days later, Cochran found a piece of paper his son had written indicating he had become a Christian.

And Cochran found a way to combine two important aspects of his life.

"I enjoyed it," Mattie Szymanski said, adding that she particularly enjoyed the program's finale, during which Cochran sung a few gospel songs as well as performing a rendition of "Dixie." She also got to share a dance with Cochran.

To contact reporter Marie Arrington, please call 244-3400, ext. 254.

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