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Gayle Kerman: Hard-working parents are terrific role models

My father, known to many as Mr. Miller, is an amazing and humble man. My wonderful mother is his biggest supporter. Raised on a farm, he grew up knowing hard work. He started his career as a school teacher in 1955 with a wife, a young daughter and a baby on the way (me). Later, our family would include two more children.

By the end of his first year of teaching, he had added the job of school bus driver to his resume. There was a shortage of drivers and he had a growing family to feed. His teaching career lasted 37 years and included stints as both a boys and girls basketball coach.

Many of his days included three bus runs: one each before and after school, and an evening one for students who stayed for sports and activities. All of this was on top of teaching a full day of classes. It’s almost unthinkable!

He couldn’t have done it without the loving support of my stay-at-home mom, who would daily fix him a healthy breakfast, hand him the lunch box she had packed and have his dinner waiting for him so he could make that evening run.

Twenty years ago, when he retired from teaching, he was somewhat of a legend in our small town in northwestern, Pa. He had touched so many young lives. Upon his retirement from teaching, he and my mother agreed that he would continue on as a school bus driver to keep himself active.

On May 26, my father turned 83. His bus driving license would expire at the end of the month. As with any important decision my father made during his married life, he discussed it with my mother. They agreed that he would not renew his license. It was time to hang up his keys after a 57-year run.

On the final day, my mother suggested that she join him near the end of his run to ride the last mile with him. She knew that he would be emotional. She boarded the bus and chatted with the young riders. One young boy shared the unfairness of it all. After all, Mr. Miller hadn’t driven him for 57 years.

As the ride continued, my father spotted a turtle crossing the road and, as he had done many times in the past, he stopped the bus and moved the creature out of harm’s way. Willing to go out without fanfare, my father accepted this day as just another day on the job.

Unbeknownst to him, the local cop (a former student,) volunteer firemen with a hook and ladder and a collection of family, friends, current and former students were waiting in the wings to escort him to his final destination – the bus garage. As bus Y10 pulled up to the entourage blocking the way, we all climbed aboard for hugs and tears and we all rode that last leg with him singing “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow.”

After many miles and countless passengers too numerous to calculate, and after listening to more bus riding tunes than one could imagine, there are “no more bottles of beer on the wall.” The wheels on the bus will still “go ’round and ’round.” However, they will go around without Mr. Miller. His legend (even greater than before) will live on as he humbly goes about his life, making a new decision with my mother: “What adventure shall we pursue next?”

My siblings and I will cherish yet another memory of our loving, hard-working and humble parents, knowing that we have been truly blessed with the best role models any children could ever hope for.