A memorial service for industry icon Don Carnahan last Wednesday gave friends, colleagues and family members a chance to share fond memories of the National Association for Pupil Transportation president, who died on Oct. 3.

Don’s broad influence and strong relationships throughout the school bus industry were evidenced by the people who came to pay their respects. Attendees traveled from all corners of the country — Alaska, Maine, Florida, California — and many points in between.

The service was held at the stained-glass-adorned Beach Park Auditorium, just outside of Seattle, on a cool autumn morning with light rain. As a microphone was passed around the room, attendees told stories of Don’s leadership in the school bus industry, his role as a mentor to many, his strong opinions but kind spirit, and his zest for life.

Memories described myriad aspects of the man: his passion for yellow school buses as well as for motorcycles, the glory of his football days, his diverse knowledge (he could identify seemingly any type of tree, for example), his caring words for friends in need, his commitment to advances in technology, and his taste for red meat and cigars. Some noted that while Don held political views that were on the other side of the spectrum from their own, he nevertheless formed deep friendships with them.

Zonar, for which Don served as a vice president, fittingly arranged for a school bus to shuttle attendees to and from the service. Some wore leather vests and boots in tribute to Don’s preferred attire.

I was fortunate to be able to travel to Seattle to attend the memorial service. As I listened to friends and family talk about Don, I was struck by how he lived life to the fullest and by what a profound impact he had on so many people.

After the service, as I climbed aboard the school bus shuttle, I left wishing I had known Don longer, that I had gotten a chance to ride motorcycles with him (even though I’ve never ridden a motorcycle), that I had sat across the table from him and witnessed him devouring a large steak (they didn't call him "The Carnasaur" for nothing).

As I reflected on Don’s vast experience and leadership in pupil transportation, it was clear that he left some big boots to fill.

Thomas McMahon is executive editor of School Bus Fleet.

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Thomas McMahon
Thomas McMahon

Executive Editor

Thomas had covered the pupil transportation industry with School Bus Fleet since 2002. When he's not writing articles about yellow buses, he enjoys running long distances and making a joyful noise with his guitar.

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Thomas had covered the pupil transportation industry with School Bus Fleet since 2002. When he's not writing articles about yellow buses, he enjoys running long distances and making a joyful noise with his guitar.

View Bio
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