LIMINGTON – It wasn’t long after talking to Dorothy Cousins’ six children that the family’s 1957 Willys Jeep entered into the story.

Their father, Alton Cousins, bought the Jeep from a laundromat company and used it for his plumbing business. The children would pile into the Jeep and sit on toolboxes and pails for a ride to the A&W Drive-In on Main Street in South Portland.

It was a popular place for teenagers to gather in the heyday of carhops and drive-in restaurants. They remembered Sundays when they’d get hamburgers, hot dogs, and a root beer float for dessert. In recent years, the Jeep was refurbished and repainted.

On Wednesday, the Cousins’ children plan to pick up their father in the Jeep for what may be one last ride, to the funeral service for Mrs. Cousins, who died Friday. She was 74.

“It’s a part of us,” said Lu Ann Morrell of Westbrook, the oldest of her children. “It’s what we grew up with. We all helped my father with the business. My mother would be so elated.”

Mrs. Cousins and her husband were married for 53 years. She was a homemaker and he ran the plumbing business. He started his business by carting his tools in a wheelbarrow and going door to door in the neighborhood. Morrell said her mother pinched pennies where she could, such as using pieces of old shirts to make a quilt.

“She was our rock,” Morrell said. “She kept us grounded.”

“How she kept her sanity raising six kids I’ll never know,” said her daughter Sandra Garland, of Meredith, N.H.

Mrs. Cousins worked at National Semiconductor for nearly 20 years. She retired from the company’s quality control area.

Her children said she liked her job, but would have preferred not to wear the uniform. The position called for her to be covered from head to toe.

“She curled her hair every single day before going to work,” Morrell said. “She had to put a hood on, which flattened her hair. It was a monkey suit.”

For Mrs. Cousins, family was most important. She enjoyed dancing with her husband and making sugar cookies with her grandchildren around the holidays.

Her daughter Ruth Kenney, also of Meredith, N.H., said she laid down the law around the holidays. She said they were expected at her mother’s house for Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter and had to bring a meal to share. Her daughters said she picked up the slack most often for their brother Donald Cousins, also of Meredith, N.H.

Alton Cousins, who has Alzheimer’s disease and lives at the Barron Center in Portland, visited his wife at Maine Medical Center on Thursday.

Morrell said her father sat by her bedside, ran his fingers through her hair and held her hand.

 

Staff Writer Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at:

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