Letters to the Editor 9/10

September 08, 2000

Letters to the Editor 9/10

Mr. Charlie's taken his last ride on Bus 346

By Jenny Belliotti

The kids called him Mr. Charlie. Last year, after 10 years of driving a school bus, he took a leave of absence due to health problems.

Amid rumors he would soon be returning to drive his school bus, he passed away.

School counselors broke the sad news to the kids who rode Bus No. 346. Parents in the communities he served mourned his loss.

Mr. Charlie... I never knew his full name. He was a kind and gentle man, usually soft-spoken, but he could get a child's attention. The kids loved him and it was obvious that he returned the feeling. He greeted the children with a smile and a kind word.


If the morning at home started off badly, his grandfatherly nature urged you to put that aside and have a good day. At the end of the day he was there, still smiling, to take you home.

On Fridays he would give all the good kids (every child, really) a treat. Often he gave out tootsie rolls. When he found out my youngest didn't like tootsie rolls, he brought her licorice. Thankfully, she never had the heart to tell him she didn't like that either.

He looked out for our kids' safety. If it was bad weather, he'd sneak in a couple extra stops closer to home for those without someone waiting at the bus stop. He would alert principals if he saw students playing hooky, because he knew they'd be safer in school. If he saw a child running for the bus, he'd tell them, slow down. I'll wait for you.

It takes a special person to drive a school bus. We'll miss Mr. Charlie. He was one of our finest bus drivers. Good driving skills are important but more so, you need nerves of steel and lots of patience. Most importantly, you have to love kids. Mr. Charlie did all that and more.

As children returned to school this week, like many parents I said a silent prayer. Please let my children like their teachers. When my girls arrived home at the end of that first day, they gave their teachers high marks. One hurdle crossed and only 179 days to go.

It's easy to forget that teachers are not the only people our students interact with in a school day. We forget that before our kids start their day they benefit from the acts of many other school system employees.

Bus drivers do the job most car pool moms would never tackle. They transport hundreds of children through all kinds of weather, safely, day after day. If your child walks to school, I'll bet they know the name of their crossing guard.

In most cases the crossing guard not only knows your child's name, but looks for them each day, doing their part to keep our kids safe.

Cafeteria workers greet many of our children with a hot meal, a smile and a compliment or two. A kind word and a friendly smile can ease school day jitters and warm a child's heart better than the hot meal warms the tummy.

If a child has been having a tough time, you can be sure, the school nurse or counselor will do their best to greet them when they arrive.

School secretaries and custodians help keep our children and their environment safe. All these people and so many more, help our children start the day off just a little better.

Mr. Charlie, for all the days you made better for our kids, God bless you!

(Editor's note: Charles W. Kiblinger died August 29 at age 69. Kiblinger, who retired from Mack Trucks before he began driving a bus, was a Marine Corps veteran who earned the Purple Heart during his service in the Korean War.)

Jenny Belliotti is president of the Washington County Council of PTAs.

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