Couple’s $250,000 gift for Gumbo Limbo overlook reflects son’s sunny spirit
By Margie Plunkett
When you someday find yourself atop the new observation tower at Gumbo Limbo Nature Center, and the Intracoastal-to-ocean view inspires in you joy, the sensation of being alive and awe at the beauty of nature, you will be experiencing Jacob’s Outlook.
This is how Jacob Kosowsky’s parents hope to memorialize and share the spirit of their exuberant 21-year-old son, who was killed in a traffic accident a year ago last month. “We like to think that Jake would be helping people to think about conservation, beauty and the ocean,” said his father, Stephen Kosowsky.
Kosowsky and his wife, Sharilyn Jones, have pledged $250,000, half the sum needed to pay for an inclined elevator, or funicular, that will be part of the 40-foot tower once it’s been restored. A plaque with the name Jacob’s Outlook will be placed at the site in their son’s honor.
The donation kicked off an Oct. 1 campaign by Friends of Gumbo Limbo to raise $500,000 to Bring Back the Tower, according to Michele Peel, president of the Friends. The tower was closed to the public in 2015 and demolished after being deemed unsafe.
The funicular is essential to make the tower, which had stood for 30 years, compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The city of Boca Raton is proceeding on the design and anticipates getting something back by early this month, with construction possibly starting on the tower in early 2020, said Briann Harms, executive director of the Greater Boca Raton Beach and Park District.
The funicular will mean “everybody can go up even if they can’t walk up it,” Jones said.
The donation came about when the family was looking for a way to honor Jacob’s memory and his love of the sea. His parents and sister, Mia, liked the idea of Gumbo Limbo.
“All his friends — every kid that grows up in Boca — goes to Gumbo Limbo,” Jones said. “Our kids grew up going there, too.
“It was great for the community and it was more accessible to everyone who knew and loved Jake — because everybody can’t swim out to a coral reef. But they can go to Gumbo Limbo, and they can bring their family and friends,” Jones said.
Jacob Kosowsky grew up in Boca Raton, graduated from Boca Raton High in 2016 and was a student at Vanderbilt University — his sister started at Vanderbilt a year after he did.
His parents described him as demonstrative and generous of spirit. He was an outdoorsman who loved spearfishing, boating and all things about the ocean — he even had a turtle collection started when he was a boy. He was a high achiever, excelled in academics and pursued debate and Youth Court, among other activities.
In the Kosowsky children’s younger years, they spent summers with their parents’ families in Hawaii, California and Utah — where Jacob learned to love skiing and hiking in the mountains as well. His family also regularly spent time in the Bahamas. He was returning from a fall-break hiking trip to Arches National Park in Utah when the traffic accident took his life.
Jacob had a special way of bringing people together who might not have otherwise gotten together — as does Mia, their mother said. At his celebration of life, Jones recalled, one of the speakers said, if you think of yourself as Jake’s best friend, please come up.
“Like 100 kids came, from elementary, middle school, high school, that he didn’t go to high school with, from college, some of his fraternity brothers, friends from school came down,” Jones said. “I think that speaks a lot about a young person when so many of their peers can say he’s my best friend.”
His legacy at Gumbo Limbo will allow him to touch many more people. At Jacob’s Outlook, he’ll just be “reminding us to slow down and enjoy it all — because he definitely did that,” said Jones. “To always remember what’s most important in life: family, nature and ultimately, love. That’s who he was.”
To donate, visit www.gumbolimbo.org/Bring-Back-The-Tower.