BELLVILLE, Texas — Even as cancer assailed her, Deanna Stallones kept driving.
Stallones, a school bus driver for Bellville Independent School District (ISD), was diagnosed with the disease in 2008. Still, she didn’t let it stop her from carrying out her duty. Stallones continued to report to the Bellville bus yard before dawn — rarely missing a day of work — to head out on her route in rural Austin County, west of Houston.
Cody Cox, director of transportation for Bellville ISD, said that throughout her battle with cancer, Stallones served as a role model for the young passengers on her bus.
“She came to work with a great attitude and was ready to go get her students,” Cox said.
Stallones started driving a school bus for Bellville ISD in 2004. The following year, she began suffering stomach pain. In 2008, doctors discovered that carcinoid tumors had grown throughout her body.
According to a GoFundMe drive that was launched for Stallones, the tumors had attached to her bones and intertwined with her nervous system, ruling out the possibility of surgery.
Stallones endured the pain and continued her work at Bellville ISD. That included more than driving.
“She was very involved in my department and helped out with decorating the bus for parades and the department for holiday parties,” Cox said.
The director of transportation also recently relied on the veteran driver to take on extra responsibility. At the start of the 2017-18 school year, Cox dissolved a few of Bellville ISD’s school bus routes, which meant that Stallones had to cover an additional area and pick up some at-risk students.
“I knew that she would be the best driver to add these at-risk students … and that she would provide them with care and love while on her bus, and that is exactly what she did,” Cox said. “When I say a driver can make or break a route, Deanna made that route the best it could possibly be.”
Stallones kept driving nearly until the end. With the cancer overtaking her, she hung up her keys in October. Parents called Cox to find out when the beloved bus driver was coming back.
Two months later, on Dec. 27, Stallones succumbed to complications of her cancer. She died with family at her side in Magnolia, Texas.
Cox said that Stallones’ passing is a tremendous loss for his department as well as the families they serve.
“Deanna is one of those drivers that cannot be replaced,” he said. “I know Deanna had a huge impact on her students and that they all loved her.”