KINGSTON, N.Y. — Pat Beesmer was recognized last week for nearly half a century of exemplary service behind the wheel of a yellow bus.
Beesmer, who works for Ethan Allen Transportation, was named Ulster County's School Bus Driver of the Year.
Ulster County officials held a ceremony on Thursday to honor Beesmer and other pupil transporters and to promote Operation Safe Stop Day, a statewide program that seeks to bolster school bus safety through education and enforcement efforts.
During Operation Safe Stop, police officers around the state ride on school buses and follow in marked and unmarked patrol cars on bus routes that have a history of illegal passing complaints.
In Ulster County, supporters wrote to recommend Beesmer for the School Bus Driver of the Year honor.
Beesmer's supervisor, Bree Allen, said that she "has touched many children's and families' hearts" during her 47 years as a school bus driver. Also, Allen noted, "Pat travels some of the most difficult roads and hills in our district and has never had a problem."
Beesmer has worked for Ethan Allen Transportation, which is a Trans Group company, since 2003, and she has not had an accident during her employment there, Allen said.
Barbara Carlson's youngest son rode Beesmer's bus, and the mother wrote in a recommendation letter that Beesmer "greeted us each morning and afternoon with a huge, contagious smile and kind, encouraging words for our son. ... He was new to the school, and her warmth undoubtedly helped him transition."
Inspired by Beesmer's demeanor on the job, Carlson decided to become a school bus driver herself.
Robyn Bowers-McKenna, a mother of three kids who have been passengers on Beesmer's bus, wrote that the veteran driver is "very tuned in to every child's needs — those who occasionally get bus sick, and those who miss Mom or Dad on their first day of school."
Beesmer started driving a school bus in 1966 when her youngest child was starting school. Over the years, she has worked for various contractors — and she even owned her own bus company for 15 years — but the entire time, she has been driving Kingston City School District students.
“Even after 47 years of driving, I still look forward to driving my route each day,” Beesmer said. “I love what I do. ... The most rewarding feeling is when I am out and about and a former student stops me to say ‘hello’ and reminisce about when he or she was a child on my bus.”
Beesmer wasn't the only New York pupil transporter in the spotlight on Operation Safe Stop Day. In Dutchess County, for example, Deanna Lear of Arlington Central School District was named School Bus Driver of the Year.
“Mrs. Lear is a model driver who always keeps her eye on the safety of her students," said William Johnson, Dutchess County Traffic Safety Board administrator. "In more than 20 years driving buses loaded with students, she has had no accidents — an exceptional achievement."