Seventy-five years after the guns fell silent at the end of World War II, the Florida widow of a fighter pilot in that bloody conflict is battling to hold on to her late husband’s private airplane that is a cherished memory of her husband’s remarkable life.
Chattanooga native Bob Cousar was just 17 when he enlisted in what was then the Army Air Corps in 1942. He was trained to fly the feared P-47 fighter, but the war ended before he had a chance to show his mettle in combat. After the war, Bob attended college on the GI Bill and eventually earned a Ph. D. in Theology from the University of Edinburgh. Over two decades into his ministry back in the U.S., he married Atlanta native Sue Ann Washington in 1977. Before long, the couple were off to Brazil, where they spent 13 years as missionaries along the mighty Amazon River.
In the 1990s, Bob and Sue Ann moved to North Captiva Island near Fort Myers on Florida’s southwestern Gulf Coast. There, Bob continued his ministry work and, in his spare time, indulged his love of flying by constructing an airplane, a single-engine BD-4, from scratch. For 18 years, Bob carefully assembled the plane in his yard and was nearing completion when he passed away at 93 in April 2018.
“He loved it. He always enjoyed working on it,” Sue Ann told WINK News. “Right up until he couldn’t, he’d come down and do this or that on it.”
Weaponizing an Ordinance Against a Property Owner
Sue Ann now has to deal with two local busybodies who have nothing else better to do than use a county nuisance ordinance to force the widow to remove Bob’s plane from her property. She recently received a notice of Nuisance Accumulation Violation from Lee County and will have to defend the presence of the plane on her property at a hearing on September 28. The county ordinance defines Nuisance Accumulation as “garbage, refuse, trash, rubbish, inoperable vehicles, or abandoned or lost property.” Bob’s plane violates none of this. Furthermore, the ordinance is designed to protect the “health, peace and safety of the community.” Bob’s plane in no way undermines this goal.
On the contrary, the plane, which is backed partly into the woods of her vacant lot adjacent to Sue Ann’s home, has become a popular attraction for residents and tourists alike. Many of them like to have their picture taken standing in front of the plane. None of her neighbors objects to it; in fact, they openly support Sue Ann’s right to keep the plane on her property. What’s more, the island has an air strip which is regularly used by 35 limited partner-owners. It’s not uncommon for people flying in to park their planes in front of their homes. No one objects.
And what of the couple who lodged the complaint against Sue Ann with the county? Neither of them currently lives on North Captiva Island.
If Lee County orders Sue Ann to remove the plane from her property, it would have to be at her expense. There is no bridge connecting the island to the mainland. The island is served by a water taxi which takes people to nearby Pine Island, where there is a bridge connecting to the mainland. This means Sue Ann would have to pay to have the plane’s wings removed, loaded onto a barge, taken to the mainland, and disposed of…somewhere. This would be a travesty to scrap 40 years of her husband’s work building this Experimental Class BD-4 airplane that has been a part of their married life together.
Petition Drive in Support of Sue Ann Cousar
Outraged over the misuse of the county’s ordinance against Sue Ann, her neighbors have launched a petition in support of her. The petition will be presented to the county at the September 28 hearing. Readers can show their solidarity with Sue Ann by signing the petition, which is here.
The threat to Sue Ann Cousar’s husband’s memory is no way to treat the widow of a WW II vet.