HOMER, Mich. — “I’ve put a lot of miles on the buses I’ve driven.” Try 1 million.
That’s how many miles it is estimated Homer Community Schools bus driver Joan Brodock logged before retiring last month after 43 and a half years on the job.
“I know I put 400,000 miles on one bus and 250,000 on another,” Brodock recalled.
She spent her first 15 years driving a traditional bus route, while the last 28 years she has driven the special-education route.
“You get to know and really care for the children,” Brodock said of the special-ed run to Battle Creek. “It’s hard for me to hang it up because of the kids.”
But at age 80, and with the urging of her family, Brodock has decided to leave the driving to someone else. “I’ve been thinking about retiring, but I wanted to drive one more year,” she noted. “I’m not quitting because of my age; I feel great. It’s just time.”
Homer Community Schools Superintendent Rob Ridgeway said 43 and a half years on the job is an amazing accomplishment.
“On behalf of the district, I want to thank Joan for not only what she has meant to the school district but to the students. It’s hard to imagine anyone driving that long. She’ll be missed because she is such a nice person. She has been a mentor to a lot of younger drivers, and a calming influence.”
While driving special education students has its own set of challenges, Brodock said she wouldn’t have traded it for any other route. You know she means it, because as the senior bus driver Brodock had her pick of routes. “These kids need a lot of loving. Some of them can’t speak. You just talk to them and smile. It’s a very rewarding job.”
That sense of family is important to Brodock, as is her love for Homer. She is a 1947 graduate of Homer High School, while her husband Leon graduated a year later. Her parents were HHS grads, as was her grandmother, four brothers, four children and seven grandchildren, with two still in the Homer school system. She also has a pair of great-grandchildren in Homer Elementary School.
Brodock began driving bus in February 1965 when buses had no power steering and were all stick shifts. “Ken Nelson (transportation supervisor) took me around the block and said, ‘You’re all set, there you go.’ ”
Brodock has been around the block quite a few times since then. To put it in perspective, she’s driven the equivalent of 40 times around the planet. “I love driving,” Brodock said. “Even the the ice and snow didn’t bother me. I just slowed down. When my husband and I went to Florida, I always drove. I’m a very good driver, even at 80.”
Story and photo by The Homer Index. Reprinted with permission.