Anton Neyens (right), celebrated his 90th birthday on Sunday. Neyens served as transportation manager at Bellingham (Wash.) Public Schools for 17 years before moving into school bus sales. He retired in 1998. He's pictured at his birthday celebration with longtime friend Michael Shields of Oregon's Salem-Keizer Public Schools.
EVERSON, Wash. — Anton Neyens has been retired from the pupil transportation industry for more than a decade, but on Sunday, he celebrated a milestone: his 90th birthday.
Neyens celebrated with family and friends at an open house, and here, he reflects on his career.
Neyens got his first taste of working with vehicles in high school, where he took an automotive course during his senior year. When a representative from a local dealership came to Neyens’ school, he was recommended to work there; the dealer hired him, so he began working and got credit for it, which enabled him to finish school.
He told SBF that he worked as an apprentice at the dealership for two and a half years before moving to a General Motors dealership, where he developed his technician skills, and later his sales and managerial skills over a period of 14 years.
His pupil transportation career began in the 1970s, when he was hired as transportation manager for Bellingham (Wash.) Public Schools. It was there that he met Michael Shields, who currently serves as director of transportation and auxiliary services for Salem-Keizer Public Schools in Salem, Ore.
When they met, Neyens hired Shields as a school bus driver for his operation while Shields was attending college.
“While he worked for me, we developed a strong friendship,” Neyens said, adding that he ultimately helped Shields secure a transportation manager position at another school district.
In addition to overseeing yellow bus service for Bellingham Public Schools, Neyens was active in Washington state’s pupil transportation community. He served on the state’s driver training committee, revising the training manual, and he also served on the state school bus specifications committee. He represented the state in Warrensburg, Mo., at the National Congress on School Transportation in 1980 and 1985.
“I found my job to be very interesting, and in terms of school buses, I was responsible for getting the school buses to include fireproof upholstery [as part of the specifications],” Neyens said.
He was also responsible for getting a noise-reducing ceiling to be included as part of the bus specifications.
Neyens planned to retire from pupil transportation after 17 years at Bellingham Public Schools, but he was approached by Thomas Built Buses to represent the manufacturer by selling buses. He held that role for nine years before permanently retiring at 74 years old.
“There was a lot of traveling involved,” Neyens explained of his decision to retire. “In 1992, I bought a new car, and when I retired in 1998, there were 227,000 miles on the car.”
Neyens remained active in his community throughout his career, serving on the Everson City Council for about 14 years, and at his church, he served on the board and was also secretary/treasurer for 15 years. He was also a longtime volunteer for the Everson Fire Department, along with his brother. Neyens became involved in 1949 when his family moved to the town, and in 1959, he was named fire chief on a volunteer basis, where he oversaw about 50 firemen. His volunteerism started a long tradition of relatives working or volunteering for fire departments.
In his retirement, Neyens said he has spent time at home with his family.
Salem-Keizer’s Michael Shields speaks fondly of Neyens and the friendship and mentorship he provided.
“He was a great mentor,” Shields told SBF. “I learned a great deal about dealing with people, maintaining a clean and orderly shop, keeping your bus sparkling, data tracking and standing behind your drivers when support is required. I am grateful to him and his wife, Esther. As an example of their heart, a couple times they gave me a place to live during the summer between semesters while I was in college.”