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Bus driver honored for 50 safe years

May. 02, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

PROCTORVILLE -- For the past 50 years, there have been two constants in Bethel Wall's life. His wife and his job.

Last week, he and Barbara celebrated five decades of marriage. On Wednesday, Wall was surprised by friends and family members for reaching the same milestone as a school bus driver in Lawrence County, Ohio.

Wall, 71, who describes himself as a private person, said his first thought when he pulled into the Fairland Local Schools bus lot just after 8:30 a.m. was that there had been a bus accident. That's because he saw the news camera, a crowd of people and a bus in front of the main garage. If he knew the commotion was for him, he joked, he probably would have turned around and left.

"I don't know if I want to get off," Wall said, after parking the No. 40 bus and opening the door.

Wall spent 45 years driving a school bus for the Symmes Valley school system and the past five for Fairland. He said was 21 years old, taking over the family dairy farm, when he was asked to fill in until a full-time driver could be hired.

"I don't think they ever looked for a driver," he said, though he didn't mind because it became more than a job to him. "It never entered my mind, this 50-year business. I just took it one year at a time."

During all those bus runs, through storms and snow, in fog and sunshine, Wall never has been in an accident. Nor has he ever had any violations. That stellar record, which he said only includes two minor scrapes that weren't his fault, also earned him recognition from the Ohio Highway Patrol and Sgt. Chris Smith.

Smith was there Wednesday to present a certificate of appreciation to Wall for his 50 years of service and safe driving.

"As a father, I appreciate your dedication to the children of Lawrence County," said Smith, noting the Highway Patrol's emphasis on school bus safety.

Friends and family also had plenty to say about Wall, including Ed Berry. Berry first met Wall in 1965, when he walked into a Sunday school class taught by him. The next day, Berry said, the bus door opened and it was Wall behind the wheel.

Berry's daughter and granddaughter both rode on Wall's buses during their years in school. And, Berry himself ended up becoming a bus driver in Symmes Valley because of Wall. He described Wall as a big brother and praised his long and safe career.

"Most of us can't drive our own cars for 50 years without any accidents, let alone no violations," Berry said. He added that of the 13 bus drivers in Symmes Valley, 10 rode on one of Wall's routes.

As for Wall, he said he'll keep driving until he just doesn't want to anymore. He thought that was the case five years ago, when he retired after Christmas break. But 60 days later, he was subbing in both Symmes Valley and Fairland, then got on full time the following school year for Fairland.

His son, Jeff Wall, said his father's accomplishments are due to a life of honesty and integrity and a belief that "anything worth doing is worth doing right."

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