Waterfall Named for Substitute

Nabila Siddiqui, Co-editor

   The passing of beloved substitute teacher, Fred Cousins, on Dec. 19 due to COVID-19 left the town of Fort Smith rattled. He spent his earlier years working as an upholstered furniture manufacturer. Then, later in his life, he worked as a substitute teacher in the Fort Smith school district. It was there when he captured the hearts of students, faculty and staff. 

   “He loved subbing at Southside & we all loved having him here. It was obvious he found so much joy in being around the students and staff. Mr. Cousins will always be remembered for his great stories, life experiences and his contagious laugh. He was like the grandfather I never had,” assistant principal secretary Tracy Person said.

   Although he spent most of his time substituting, Cousins enjoyed painting in his free time. His work was displayed in galleries such as the Center for Art and Education in Van Buren. Cousins preferred to work with watercolors and paint scenes of exotic birds and landscapes. 

   “His artwork was rather impressionistic-realistic. He did several pieces that were in that 2015 show…His association with the art center was basically doing shows, promoting us so talking about the activities we did because he really liked the idea that we worked a lot with children and encouraged him to develop their creative side,” executive director for the Center for Art and Education in Van Buren Jane Owen said. 

   His aptitude for landscape art inspired math teacher Michael Maxwell to honor Cousins in a very special way. Maxwell, who enjoys spending time outdoors, named a local waterfall after Cousins.

   “I have been waterfall hunting for about a year. I enjoy hiking and nature photography. Arkansas has so many waterfalls that many of the smaller ones go unnamed. All you need to name a waterfall is to name it and have it published somewhere. Since Mr. Cousins was a great nature painter, it seemed appropriate to name a waterfall after him,” Maxwell said.

   Maxwell asserts that even though he was a substitute, Cousins created a  profound impact on the staff and students on campus.

   “Mr. Cousins was liked by students, teachers, and administration; that isn’t easy. He enjoyed life, and I hope that attitude affected students as well,” Maxwell said.

   Located in the Poteau Mountain Wilderness area, Cousins Falls stands 10-15 feet tall. It remained unnamed and unmarked until Maxwell found it in December. After finding it, Maxwell posted the waterfall on the Waterfalls of Arkansas Facebook page where he wrote a touching tribute to the substitute teacher. This is also where he attempted to get more recognition for Cousins Falls.

   “The waterfall is located in the Poteau Mountain Wilderness. I posted the exact GPS coordinates on the Waterfalls of Arkansas Facebook page, which has 79k followers. I also messaged Tim Ernst about putting the falls into the next edition of his Waterfalls of Arkansas book,” Maxwell said. 

   Cousins’ family members appreciated the tribute, especially Murlene Cousins, his wife of roughly 60 years.

   “I think he would have been really honored…we had the same likes you know.  He liked nature a lot, so this waterfall will be really something that would be wonderful for him to be named after,” Murlene Cousins said.