On the road again
Jul 30, 2015 03:36PM
● By Dia
Photography by Jamie Handy
Retired from executive and other high-level careers, these Southlake residents - turned bus drivers are taking a new route in life.
Retirement is what you make of it, and depending on whom you ask, coming out of retirement could be the best part. Take retiree Jerry Hon for example. He’s a school bus driver for Carroll ISD. Jerry landed his first job out of college with a major oil company, now known as Citgo. He was selected to be part of a three-man team working with IBM engineers to assist with debugging the first IBM 360 COBOL compiler and programming language.
Jerry moved on to work with a start-up computer output service company for 23 years, beginning as a systems programmer and retiring as EVP of Field Operations. At that point, as Jerry puts it, life without the office hours sounded great. “But after a couple of months of nothing challenging to do, it became apparent that retirement was not for me,” he says.
Coming out of retirement, Jerry became the EVP of International Operations with 10,000 employees spread around the world. And after seven years in that position, he was once again thrown back into retirement.
Fortunately for him, another opportunity came up that would once again bring him back into the fold. He was told he wouldn’t be a VP of any sort, but there would still be travel involved. However, this job would only take him around the block and up the corner a few times – a far cry from around the world.
Jerry is a school bus driver for the Carroll ISD Transportation Department, and according to him, it’s the best job he’s ever had.
School bus drivers in Southlake come from all different walks of life. Most other school districts employ bus drivers who have made a career of it. Southlake is different, Jerry says. “We are a bunch of people from different backgrounds who all happen to enjoy driving school buses post-retirement.”
But Southlake wasn’t a random destination for these empty nesters looking for a little more than timeshares and RV resorts. These career men and women turned school bus drivers had been part of the Southlake community for years.
“One of the reasons I chose to be a bus driver is that Southlake has been part of our lives for so many years,” Jerry says. “My girls went through the school system, and my wife was a volunteer at the school. Carroll has been such a big part of our lives for so many years, and I like the people and the kids in the school system.”
“Southlake kids are special. Other drivers come in from other districts and tell stories we couldn’t even dream up. We have a pretty good clientele,” he adds.
Taking on the role of a bus driver is more about the benefits that can’t be calculated on a ledger. Jerry, who transports students in kindergarten through eighth grade, said he wouldn’t have it any other way. “It is a wonderful and very fulfilling job. I am thankful for every day I get to spend with my young friends. You can only imagine the joy I have watching them as they grow up.”
For other drivers, such as Jim and Ginger Murray who drive for junior and senior high school students, it’s more about building relationships with the students which allows them to be a positive influence on Southlake youth.
Meet the Murrays
He goes by Mr. Jim, Mr. Murray or Mr. Bus Driver Man, but no matter how you address him, he’ll
know your name soon enough. “I memorize the students’ names in two to three weeks,” Jim says. “Once they realize that I take the time to know their names, they have more respect for me and respond better.
“They teach us in orientation to greet each student coming on and going off the bus. You never know what kind of day they are having,” Jim recalls. “So I make it a point to shake hands with each and every one of them.”
Nine years ago, Jim started driving a school bus for Carroll when a friend told him he might enjoy it as a part-time job. It didn’t take Jim long to become hooked.
But this transportation gig would be nothing like what he experienced in his 34- year career with Ford Motor Company.
Shortly after graduating from Lewisville High School in 1967, Jim was hired by the Ford Motor Company Parts Division in Carrollton. He began his career as a warehouse employee but was quickly promoted to management.
“Before Ford’s move to the Alliance Airport area in 2003, I was responsible for the maintenance of more than 500,000 square feet of buildings, including 100 pieces of riding equipment such as forklifts and a complex retrieval system much like what you’d see at the dry cleaners,” Jim says.
It was in anticipation of the company’s move to the Alliance Corridor that Jim and his family moved to Southlake in 2000. After his retirement, Jim recalls his accountant suggesting a part-time job wouldn’t be a bad idea to supplement he and his wife’s retirement income. That’s about the time he was introduced to the Carroll ISD Transportation Department.
Jim enjoyed driving a school bus so much that after the first year he talked his wife Ginger into taking it on as her part-time job as well. “When they asked me if I would be interested in driving the bus for students with special needs, I was not sure at first,” Ginger says. “But after a week I knew this is where I wanted to be. These kids are so neat, and they just light up the room.”
Jim and his wife were youth counselors for six years at First United Methodist Church in Richardson, where they lived prior to moving to Southlake. “The time we spent working with kids at the church, is really what prepared us for interacting with the students on our bus routes,” Ginger says. “We can really relate to them.”
According to Jim, when he was a teenager all he cared about were “hot rods and girls.” But his experiences as a bus driver for junior and senior high school students has continued to open his eyes to this generation.
“I like driving the older kids because it keeps us plugged in to young people. Usually all you hear is the bad stuff about teenagers, but these kids are pretty cool,” Jim says. “I’ve been driving high school students for eight of my nine years with the district, and I am proud to say our future is in good hands.”
Jim may be referring to the students he drives each day to and from school, but if the care and attention expressed by the bus drivers as a whole is true —Southlake parents know their children are in good hands, as well.