Judy Bussey

Judy Bussey reads a statement Tuesday to Fairmont City Council in support of a resolution requesting the West Virginia Department of Transportation, Division of Highways, officially name the Coal Run Hollow replacement bridge in Fairmont in honor of Rose Agnes Rolls Cousins.

FAIRMONT — A bridge in the city could be named in honor of one of West Virginia’s most well-known aviators.

At its meeting Tuesday, Fairmont City Council adopted a resolution requesting the West Virginia Department of Transportation, Division of Highways, officially name the Coal Run Hollow replacement bridge in Fairmont in honor of Rose Agnes Rolls Cousins.

Residents presented city council with 578 signatures of an online petition supporting the name change measure.

“We, the signers of this petition, submit, to the City Council of Fairmont and the West Virginia Legislature, our request that the new bridge being constructed over Coal Run Hollow, as part of the WV Route 310 extension, in Fairmont, WV, be named the Rose Agnes Rolls Cousins Memorial Bridge,” states the petition.

Cousins’ niece, who read a statement to council in favor of the resolution, wiped away tears after the ordinance was adopted unanimously.

“It was heartwarming, it really was to know that my aunt is being considered for this honor, and she deserves it,” said Judy Bussey of Fairmont. “She was very instrumental in my life.”

Bussey said Cousins was like a second mother to her and described her as very intelligent. She said Cousins graduated from high school when she was 16 years old.

A synopsis of the resolution states that among Cousins’ many accomplishments was her completion of the Civilian Pilot Training Program at West Virginia State College. It states that Cousins tried out for the U.S. Air Force training program for black combat pilots in Tuskegee, Ala., “ultimately being inducted as an honorary member of the Tuskegee Airman[sic] in the 1980s.”

According to the synopsis, Cousins sought admission to the Women Airforce Service Pilots “in a further effort to serve the United States of America during perilous times.”

“In light of her many accomplishments, Rose AR Cousins’ life is an outstanding example of determination, selfless service and sacrifice and it is right and just to honor her memory by naming the Coal Run Hollow replacement bridge situate[sic] in Fairmont, Marion County, West Virginia, ‘The Rose Agnes Rolls Cousins Bridge,’” states the ordinance.

According to her obituary, Cousins died July 30, 2006 at the age of 86.

Another supporter of the resolution, Romelia Hodges of Fairmont, said it’s well-deserved.

“I have been lobbying for this for about a year, along with Creed Holden,” Hodges said. “And the reason was because I for many years, grew up knowing the legacy of Ms. Cousins, and I felt as thought she was under-appreciated for her abilities and all she brought to not only African-American women, but women in general, because she was so strong and so willing and so giving. She was a humble yet strong force for the community.”

She thought the best honor to give Cousins was “something that was concrete and that would live for many generations.”

“Every single day I drive under that bridge, and I am overwhelmed at the aspect that I will drive my daughter to school under that bridge every day,” Hodges said.

Council member Dora Kay Grubb, the former president of the Marion County Historical Society, said Cousins deserves the recognition.

“The exemplary life she led is an example to other people,” she said.

Mayor Brad Merrifield said he was proud to say the resolution passed by a unanimous vote.

“I wish I would have known her,” Merrifield said.

Eric Hrin can be reached at 304-367-2549, or ehrin@timeswv.com.

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