OPINION: Bus drivers more than transporters

Editorial by Chris Faulknor, Publisher

How many of you had Shirley Howie as a bus driver? If you didn’t, you probably know someone who did.

 

For decades, the lady with red hair, a big smile, and a “don’t mess with me” attitude drove children around before and after school—myself included.

After meeting me a few dozen times, she figured out that I could read.

As a kindergartner, that was a rarity.

And, so, every time we went on a field trip or someone from the school was walking by, she would drag them onto the bus to witness my reading skills.

I would usually read the list of bus rules posted on the wall, and she always made me feel like something special.

Fast-forward 16 years and we started The Boyne City Gazette.

Among our first letters to the editor was from Howie.

She recounted her years as a bus driver for Boyne City Public Schools and detailed her memories of me reading all those years ago.

Her encouragement helped me to keep pushing and working hard on this dream.

This past week, Howie was recognized along with other members of her family.

The Boyne City Public Schools Board of Education renamed the Bus Garage, calling it the “Howie Transportation Center.”

Shirley would have been so proud.

Toward the end of her life, I always saw her roaming around town on her motorized scooter, still as happy as can be.

She bounced around between the grocery store, community picnics, restaurants, and events like there was nothing wrong in the world.

I can picture her now in the middle of Family Fare stopping someone as they did their shopping to tell them the story.

I can hear her raspy voice going on, “You’ll never guess what that school board did! That building over there is the Howie Transportation Center now, can you believe it?”

She would be immensely proud of our community.

She would be undoubtedly proud of our schools.

More importantly, she would be proud of her family for sticking out the multi-generational tradition of helping kids get to school safely and returning them unscathed at the end of the day.

Recognitions like this are important to me for so many reasons.

I thought a lot about Shirley as the board went through the process of renaming that building.

I thought about numerous others, too, who have made the Boyne City community a better place.

I remembered Shirley Howie, Sally Pasque, Father Partridge, Ed Vondra, Gordon Lambie, Woody Austin, Ed Hennessey, and so many more who have died over the past decade.

Her recognition helped me to remember, and for a community like Boyne City, remembering is everything.

We have to remember the hard work put in by those who came before us, because those are the shining examples we have to follow.

I hope you’ll all help me in making sure the hard work doesn’t ever get forgotten.

When you see a school bus driving by, remember Shirley Howie.

Your memory might be Shirley with her raspy voice, scooter, and fun-loving personality carrying around an oxygen tank because she wouldn’t be held back by her health.

Or, like me, it might be the orange-haired lady calling me on the bus so I could stand there proudly and read “Rule Number 8: Stay in your seat.”

You’ll never be forgotten, Shirley.

A grateful little town wishes you an eternity of joy wherever you are.

 

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