February 21, 2012

Hatteras Realty owner Stewart Couch dies in Nicaragua


Stewart Couch, owner of Hatteras Realty and a Hatteras Island community leader, died while vacationing with friends in Nicaragua, according to his brother, John.

John Couch said in a phone call this evening that Stewart was in the Central American country, pursuing one of his favorite pastimes, surfing.

Couch said that his brother had apparently been treated recently by a doctor for what was thought perhaps to be a heat-related ailment but had returned to the house where he was staying with friends from Hatteras.

His friends, John said, found him dead in the bathroom this morning.

An autopsy to determine the cause of death was to be performed this evening.

John said that his brother had recently told him that he was going to get himself in shape and take a week each month in the coming year to travel and surf.

“He worked out hard to get in shape,” John said.

Raymond Stewart Couch, 61, grew up on Hatteras Island and graduated from Cape Hatteras School.  He went to work for Wallace Beckham, then the owner of Outer Beaches Realty in Avon. 

“He (Beckham) told my father that Stewart was a natural at selling….the best he had ever seen.”

Stewart went on to purchase the fledgling Hatteras Realty from former Hatteras islander Pete Costenbader and to grow it into the company that it is today, one of the largest on the island, with offices in Avon, Hatteras village, and in an old, historic island cottage in Waves.

The company was located in a cottage in Avon, back when Stewart bought it, John said.

“He was driven,” John said, “to take something and make it as good as he could and to take it as far as he could.

“He loved his family.  He loved his career.  He loved Hatteras Island,” said John.

Stewart Couch was the oldest son of the late Ray and Nita Couch.  He, like his brothers John and Danny, followed their parents’ example of being active in and contributing to the community.

Ray Couch, owner of what was then the Red Drum Service Station in Buxton, helped establish the Outer Banks Preservation Association (OBPA) in the late 1970s to keep the beaches free and open for public recreation. 

Today, John runs the service station and auto parts store and is president of OBPA, which has been supported by both of his brothers. Stewart gave freely of his time and money to OBPA and many other groups.

Stewart was also active in promoting Hatteras Island and in other community organizations.  He was generous with his colleagues and friends and threw his company’s pool open to the community several times a year. John said he was also known to invite friends to “Come swim in my pool.”

“He was my best friend,” said John, adding that all three of the brothers were extremely close.

“No one should die alone,” John said quietly twice in last evening’s phone conversation.  He and Danny will go to Norfolk as soon as they can manage to have his body sent home and will make decisions about the final arrangements.

In addition to his brothers, Stewart is survived by his daughter, Elizabeth Nicole Couch, 17, of Kill Devil Hills, and nieces and nephews.

Island Free Press will publish more about Stewart Couch’s death, arrangements, and tributes in the coming days. 

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