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Posted - 05/27/2007 :  3:47:51 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote

Ward Nelson of Washington County drives mostly the rural roads -- in and around such places as South Boston, Bunker Hill and New Philadelphia -- that he has known for a lifetime. (By Bill Luster, The Courier-Journal)

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Dale Moss
After 60 years, school bus driver hangs up keys


Maybe Reggie Terrell is teasing, maybe not.

After all, Ward Nelson has claimed before that he is retiring. He has said it more than once. He has driven a school bus seemingly forever. So what's forever plus an occasional fill-in come fall?

"We'll wake him up," said Terrell, who finds substitute drivers. "Just to keep him going."

Nelson said he will go until school dismisses this week, and then that is it. Really. He said he has had enough, finally, and his bus has as well. Nelson has driven since not long after he returned to his family's Washington County farm after World War II.

He is 82, way older than his riders tend to guess. Nelson liked the extra income and, ultimately, he liked feeling less old around young people. He appreciated this reason to stay active, this way to contribute. He showed up every day, whether anyone kept track.

"I just thought I performed a reasonable service," Nelson said. "That's all I thought I did."

Nelson drives for the East Washington School Corp., which is eliminating contracts such as Nelson's in favor of employing drivers and owning buses. Nelson's run well may have ended anyway. Plus, indeed, his '91 International model is over the hill. Handy excuse, his wife, Helen Nelson, figures. "He can say, 'My bus is too old,' " she said.

They call him Ward, the No. 15 bus riders, who include grandchildren of some of his early passengers. He assigns them seats but they respect that he's no tyrant. He asks parental intervention only infrequently.

"He handles problems like nothing," said Jaymee Blankenbaker, a junior at Eastern High. "He's the most tolerant guy I know."

"He's awesome," said eighth-grader Kara Carlton, Nelson's first passenger each morning.

It's all because Nelson's brother, Loren Nelson, was elected Franklin Township trustee and had to give up his bus route. Ward Nelson stepped in, never to step out. He drove while also raising vegetables for canning by Morgan Foods in Austin.

Nelson drove while working at a tire store, and while delivering fuel for Ashland. He drove at first for $11 per day. He drove through eventually almost 57 years of marriage, as he and Helen raised three sons.

Helen was Ward's usual backup, though rarely was she needed. "I can't remember a day I didn't drive because I was sick," he said.

A slender, quiet man, Ward Nelson drives mostly the rural roads -- in and around such places as South Boston, Bunker Hill and New Philadelphia -- that he has known a lifetime. He has been in but a couple of slight wrecks, neither that was his fault. When his bus was stuck in a snowdrift, he freed it with his tractor.

"Never have to worry about Ward," Terrell said.

Nelson assumed he was done at 65, but a rule was changed. He drove until 70, and then that limit too was axed. One semester not long ago, he hired a sub for his route. But Terrell kept calling Nelson to help, which he invariably did before resuming his regular duties.

"I think it's all over," Nelson said the other day. "This time, it is going to be all over. I don't have to worry if school starts Aug. 14 or 15 or whenever."

He said he doubts he will miss driving at all, surely not when the weather is bad. He looks forward to turning off the alarm-type machine he rigged to awaken to his own scolding voice. Then again, Nelson recently renewed his commercial driver's license. Plus he remains about as fit and spry as when he was named the healthiest student at Salem High School.

At the school system's bus barn, Nelson is understandably all but a legend. Sixty years? His colleagues cannot imagine. "I don't know how's he done it, I really don't," Sue Burns said.

"He'll be ready to come back," Billy Stewart said.

Nelson has some old cars to restore, including a Model T Ford. A cousin is after the Nelsons to visit in California, but occasional shorter trips are more likely. He smiles, recalling former riders who used to try his patience but now heap praises.

"I feel like I accomplished a little something," Nelson said. "Yet I'm ready to quit."

Terrell will see.

Dale Moss' column appears on Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Reach him at (812) 949-4026 or Comment on this column, and read his blog and previous columns, at

Edited by - 80-RE4 on 06/01/2007 06:38:50 AM

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Posted - 05/27/2007 :  5:09:38 PM  Show Profile  Visit JK's Homepage  Reply with Quote
looks to me like he has a few more good years left to drive school bus. (jk)

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Posted - 05/27/2007 :  6:20:01 PM  Show Profile  Visit 78fordwayne's Homepage  Send 78fordwayne an AOL message  Send 78fordwayne a Yahoo! Message  Reply with Quote
Well if hes been driving that Thomas Vista its no wounder hes retiring

Robert B.

Edited by - 78fordwayne on 05/27/2007 6:23:10 PM
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Posted - 05/27/2007 :  10:09:26 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Good for him that he's been driving for so long and is in so good of health!!

IC-The Golden Shield of School Transportation
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Posted - 05/27/2007 :  10:23:25 PM  Show Profile  Send BusFreak an AOL message  Reply with Quote
That Vista is totally not a 91 model year. I'm guessing that's not his bus.

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Posted - 05/30/2007 :  09:47:56 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Bus Driver To Hang Up Keys After 61 Years

POSTED: 9:07 am CDT May 30, 2007
UPDATED: 9:16 am CDT May 30, 2007

STANHOPE, Iowa -- After 61 years behind the wheel of a school bus, a Stanhope man made his last run on Wednesday morning.

Dale Hanson, 80, started driving a bus during World War II, when most of the men were away at war. He was just 17.

He's hauled three generations of students from Stanhope to school.

Dale admitted that he'll miss his moments with the kids.

"It makes your day when you get these little kindergarteners, or first-graders, that come up and thank you for the ride home and put their arm around you and say, 'I love you, Dale,'" Hanson said.

South Hamilton Schools will host a thank-you reception for Hanson right after his last route at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Stanhope Community Center.

Copyright 2007 by All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Edited by - 80-RE4 on 05/30/2007 09:54:26 AM
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Posted - 05/30/2007 :  6:37:01 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Bus aide retires after 25 years
Every day, she helped kids get on board safely
Stephanie Armenta
The Arizona Republic
May. 30, 2007 12:00 AM

Lemoine (Lee) Schubert has seen students of the Paradise Valley Unified School District grow from kindergartners to high school seniors.

Schubert worked for the district as a bus aide since 1982. But, last week, at 86 years old, she finally decided she was ready to retire.

For the past 25 years, she helped special-needs students board the bus safely. She taught them to hold on to the rails when entering. She made sure their seat belts were safely fastened and hooked up their wheelchairs. Most importantly, she never forgot to greet each one of them.

About her work, Schubert said she would "blow a lot of noses and tie a lot of shoes."

She began working for the school transportation department because she wanted to join her husband, Osmer Schubert, a school bus driver, at work, instead of just sitting around at home. Since then, she fell in love with her job of helping students. "They are going to have a different life than you and I," Schubert said. "If I can give them a little help then that makes my world."

Her day would begin at 5 every morning. She drove to work every day, arriving with a smile and leaving with a smile, said Gail Rasco, lead driver and Lee's co-worker for more than 20 years. "She's like a grandmother to all the kids."

Glennis Enloe, Schubert's longtime friend said: "I am only 71, but it wears me out trying to keep up with her." The two plan to spend many morning breakfasts together after Schubert retires.

Schubert has seen the district grow, and many other bus drivers retire. She has had physical and emotional challenges, but would not trade her experience as a bus aide for anything.

Her husband passed away from emphysema 20 years ago. Schubert, who still wears her wedding ring, says she would not have worked this long if he were still alive.

"We would be enjoying life together," she said. "My family always comes first and always will."

Now, she plans to take it easy but hopes that her job has made a difference.

"If I helped one child make it, then I've accomplished my job," Schubert said.
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Posted - 06/01/2007 :  06:36:01 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Day is Dunn for bus driver in Carlinville


Published Friday, June 01, 2007

By my very rough calculations, school bus driver Melvin Dunn carried more than 2,000 different students and covered 732,160 miles.
The wheels on the bus go round and round when a man spends 52 years at it.

On Wednesday afternoon, Mel, a Carlinville school bus driver, climbed into Bus No. 12 and drove the students home. It was the final day of school for the kids. It was Mel’s final day as a school bus driver.

He was either 17 or 18 years old (he can’t remember which) in 1955, when he got a job driving a bus for the Carlinville schools. Mel’s father-in-law drove a bus and helped him get the job.

It wasn’t Mel’s only job. He was mayor of Carlinville for a year in the 1970s. But it is the job he’s best known for. He hauled at least three generations of Carlinville kids.

At 1:40 p.m. sharp on Wednesday, Mel’s friend Doris Hall and I got on Mel’s bus for the final 40-mile route.

“I’m 70 years old, and I’ve never had a problem,” Mel said before we left. “I want to quit before I do. ... If they didn’t have bus monitors, I’d have retired before this.”

Mel said monitors are the best thing anybody did for school bus drivers. They keep the kids in line so all the driver has to do is drive.

We rumbled through Carlinville, picking up students of all ages at different schools, then headed west out of town on the route Mel has had for most of his 52 years.

Before the first student left the bus, Mel got on the intercom for a farewell message. He informed the kids that it was the last time he would take them home from school.

“As of today I am retiring,” he said, “and Vicky Ray will be your driver.”

He actually was speaking to those more than 2,000 students when he added, “Thanks for the nice years you’ve given me.”

His bus traveled narrow ribbons of gravel and pockmarked, hard roads barely wide enough for the bus -

Rinaker Road, Colt Road, Sarginson Lane. Mel would have had to pull off the road had he met a vehicle coming the other way.

Of course, there weren’t any.

We dropped kids off and, as we pulled away, I watched some go down long, country driveways to their homes at the other end. Not everyone would find it such, but there is a unique Midwestern beauty to the flatness of this land, with its green crops just now getting a good start toward harvest, crops that sometimes hem in the bus on each side of the narrow roads.

What made Mel such a valuable driver was his dependability, said Carlinville School District transportation director Ron Young. All kinds of weather. All kinds of life’s hard knocks. None of it stopped him.

“Even when his wife and his daughter died,” Ron said, “I had to force him to take time off.”

The two died within a few weeks of each other. Cancer.

Mel recently was given a surprise dinner at school. On Friday morning, all the drivers met for a “school’s out” breakfast, and Mel was honored again with a Golden Apple. His bus monitor, Sandy Cramer, gave him a scrapbook with pictures of all of the kids he hauled in this, his final year.

Mel is soft spoken, not the sort of guy you could imagine screaming at the kids to be quiet and sit down. But I suppose he had his moments over the decades.

“I’ll sue you!” is the students’ favorite comeback when a driver or monitor tries to make them behave Mel said. Kids have changed in 52 years.

We arrived at a home on Sarginson, the sort of place the term “the sticks” was invented for, and Becky Paul was there to get a picture of her son, Bryce, as he came off the bus after finishing his kindergarten year. She came to the door of the bus.

“Congratulations on your retirement,” she told Mel. “You drove me to school, too.”

At exactly 3 p.m., the Downey kids - Heather, Ashley and Devin - said goodbye to Mel and Sandy and left the bus. They were the last passengers.

“That’s all she wrote,” Sandy said. “It’s been a pleasure, Mel.”

“There’s no monitor I’d rather have had than you,” Mel replied.

Back at the garage, I asked Mel if he is more sad, happy or relieved.

“Relieved,” he said. “That’s it.”

Everybody has a story. The problem is some of them are boring. If yours is not, contact Dave Bakke at 788-1541 or His column appears Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.
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Posted - 06/01/2007 :  3:43:33 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
"He was either 17 or 18 years old (he can’t remember which) in 1955, when he got a job driving a bus for the Carlinville schools. Mel’s father-in-law drove a bus and helped him get the job."

Mmmmm, assuming he knows when he was born....seems like he could just do the arithmatic....

But anyway....congrats Mel! Have a long and happy retirement!
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Posted - 06/01/2007 :  5:29:17 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by IC

"He was either 17 or 18 years old (he can’t remember which) in 1955, when he got a job driving a bus for the Carlinville schools. Mel’s father-in-law drove a bus and helped him get the job."

Mmmmm, assuming he knows when he was born....seems like he could just do the arithmatic....

But anyway....congrats Mel! Have a long and happy retirement!

Not necessarily. If he was born in June for example, he may have started driving in April(And have been 17 for example) or he may have started in August(And been 18 for example) all within the same year.
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Posted - 06/03/2007 :  05:00:26 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Article published Jun 3, 2007
‘It really is like a family here'

The school bus at St. Charles Catholic School in Newport became more than a means of transportation for Cindy Swan.

"This is my office," she said, smiling, sitting in the driver's seat.

She recently left her long, narrow, yellow "office" for good. She retired as the school's lone bus driver on Friday after 27 years of service.

"I've really enjoyed the kids and everyone at the school. They make it difficult to leave, but I felt it was time to go," she said last week, after dropping off students at school in the morning.

Picking up students from kindergarten through eighth grade, Mrs. Swan drove the only bus for the school. Her schedule usually consisted of driving the bus from 6 to 8:30 a.m. and from 3 to 5 p.m. She also drove students to various field trips, such as Toledo and Ann Arbor, throughout the school year.

When the doors opened, students always saw Mrs. Swan's smiling face. That's because in all of her 27 years, she never took a sick day.

"It's only a couple hours in the morning and afternoon. I've never been sick enough to miss it. If I didn't feel good, I only had to get through a couple hours, then I could go home," explained Mrs. Swan of South Rockwood.

She enjoyed the students, who usually called her "Miss Cindy."

"They are good kids. They know the rules and follow them well. I was their friend but they also knew to follow the rules. If they didn't, I probably would have retired a lot earlier," she said, laughing.

Mrs. Swan could not single out a specific route that was particularly unusual, other than a bird flying in the bus.

"The girls were screaming," she recalled, smiling. "Other than that, it's been pretty routine."

Since it's been nearly 30 years since taking the wheel at St. Charles, Mrs. Swan has seen generations of families get on and off her bus.

"I drove kids who now have kids of their own, and they're riding the bus now," she said.

Upon making the realization, she knew it was time to put the bus in park for good.

"It's time to go. I've put in my time, so now it's time for someone younger and fresher to take over," she said.

Before her job at St. Charles, Mrs. Swan was a bus driver at Airport Community Schools. She is happy with her decision to work at a parochial school with an enrollment of about 200 students.

"I got here, liked it here, and stayed here," she said, smiling. "The kids have been great and so has the school. It really is like a family here."

She admitted that she didn't plan to hold onto a job for nearly three decades. She had looked for a job to go to while her children were in school. She followed in her parents' footsteps.

"After my dad retired, he became a bus driver. And my mom drove a bus for 25 years," she said.

Today, Mrs. Swan plans to enjoy her free time. She and her husband, Wayne, plan to travel to places such as northern California, Florida and Las Vegas.

They have three children, Alan, Jay, and Andria Swan. She also has four grandchildren. Mrs. Swan will babysit her grandson a few times each week.

"It's time to be a grandma," she said.
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Posted - 07/10/2023 :  08:06:23 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
What do former bus drivers and monitors think about the prospect of requiring seat belts on school buses?
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