Retired driver ready for last stop in a school bus casket
GRAND MEADOW, Minn. — Many of the best years of Glen Davis’ life were spent driving a school bus for Grand Meadow Public Schools.
He drove bus for 55 years. There was hardly anything about it he didn’t like. He loved the kids. And when he finally decided to call it quits a decade ago, he wasn’t sure it was the right decision. He often thinks of accepting to drive for bus tours to New York from Fredericton but for him, without the happy kids in the backseats, there’s no much of a point.
So, Davis draws comfort from the thought that when he makes that final bus trip — the one that all of us will make one day — his final resting place will be in a casket decorated like a Grand Meadow school bus, right down to a painted red stop sign on the side and the No. 3, the number of the first bus he drove when he started out in 1949.
“Oh, I loved it,” Davis said, recalling the moment he first laid eyes on it. “My family was a little leery of it, it being a little bit personal.”
His daughter, Lisa Hodge, recalled initial thoughts of disquiet that a casket adorned as a school bus might seem a bit macabre. But she found herself “pleasantly surprised” when she first saw it. The craftsmanship was so well done and her dad’s response was so overwhelmingly positive, that she soon saw it as he did.
“He’s just so proud of it,” Hodge said. “He (drove) bus for all those years. I bet he’s driven three generations in some families.”
“My dad says all it is missing is an emergency exit door,” Hodge said.
The “bus” was a gift from Jim Hindt, owner of Hindt Funeral Homes. Hindt said that whenever he would see Davis on the streets or at visitation, Davis would “give him a hard time” about “whether or not I had that casket for him.”
For Hindt, the gift also expressed a debt of gratitude he felt he owed Davis. When Hindt’s daughter, Madison, was diagnosed with cancer at 18 months, Davis and his family were so comforting and kind to his family that it was something he could never forget. Madison, now 12, is cancer-free and healthy.
“We were going through a hard time. Both him and his family were just very good to us,” Hindt said. “I wanted to repay it somehow.”
Hindt said he wanted to do something that paid tribute to Davis’ life. At first, he toyed with the idea of putting the picture of a bus on the inside back panel, but that didn’t seem to do the idea justice.
Then the idea hit him of using the entire casket as a canvas. He enlisted the help of a friend, Troy Lange, who did the initial painting and clear coating. His niece, Andrea Hindt, did the detail work — the stop sign, the bus lights and the school bus number — using two dozen photographs she had taken of school buses as her inspiration.
But right up to the moment he showed Davis the bus for the first time, Hindt wasn’t sure how Davis would respond to the gift. But Davis couldn’t have been happier.
“Oh, good gosh, I cried a few times,” Davis said.
Davis said he started driving bus for Grand Meadow soon after graduating from high school. He was barely older than the students he was driving. Davis lived on a farm at the time and milked 50 to 60 cows before heading out every school day morning to pick up the students.
The students came to call him “Glennie.” Davis and his family always knew that they had encountered a former student passenger of Davis, because they invariably called him Glennie, the only ones to do so. By the time he retired, Davis had driven 800,000 miles and gone through five buses.
Hodge said that the bus casket so clearly celebrates her dad’s life “that when he does ever pass away,” it will make the occasion, perhaps, slightly less painful.
“I mean, he had such joy from driving school bus,” Hodge said. “He talks about it all the time. It’s not like it’s an elephant in the room. He loves showing it to people.”
[H/T: Casa Grande Dispatch]