GRAND RAPIDS, Minn. — There wasn’t a dry eye in the room when the Minnesota School Bus Operators Association (MSBOA) handed out its annual awards earlier this month.
It was a particularly emotional moment when Don Puetz was in the spotlight. The longtime school bus driver has shown remarkable dedication and care for his students. For example, he keeps granola bars on his bus for any students who haven't had breakfast.
A young woman who rode Puetz’s bus from first grade through high school wrote a letter of recommendation in which she recounted how Puetz had helped her and befriended her on her first day of school, when she “was terrified and didn’t know a soul.”
Puetz has been a committed school bus driver since 1978, even during this past year, which has been marked with personal sorrow: Puetz lost both his wife and his daughter.
Shelly Jonas, executive administrator for MSBOA, said that when Puetz was recognized, “everyone at the awards dinner was in tears. … He is a great example of being a true Transportation Specialist.”
Including Puetz, five outstanding school bus drivers won MSBOA’s 2014 Transportation Specialist Awards for their dedication to their students and their communities. For more details on each of their efforts, click here.
Here is the full list of 2014 Transportation Specialist Award winners:
• Bob Janes, Faribault Transportation, Faribault, Minnesota
• Patty Schunemann, Trobec’s Bus Service, St. Stephen
• Kim Arnold, NorTran Inc., Deer River
• Don Puetz, Bluff Country School Bus Service Inc., Lake City
• Alfred Miller, Vision of Elk River Inc., Elk River
Also handed out at the June 9 event were MSBOA’s Lifetime Achievement Award and Jim DeVeau Award.
John Benjamin won the Jim DeVeau Award, which recognizes devotion to school bus safety in Minnesota. Benjamin began his school bus career in 1989 when his brother Larry Benjamin bought Grisim School Bus. The brothers have worked side by side with their school bus operation (Benjamin Bus) and motorcoach business (Northfield Lines). John Benjamin has served on the MSBOA board and as a committee chair.
Chuck Hey won the 2014 Lifetime Achievement Award, which honors past or present MSBOA members who have dedicated their lives to the Minnesota school bus industry and the safety of the state’s children. Hey owned and ran school bus operations in Jasper, Minnesota, and Sioux Falls, South Dakota. He has served on the MSBOA board, including a term as president, and has been active in the National School Transportation Association.