Jean Clark, 66, of Monroe has rolled out of bed by 4:30 a.m. for the past 26 years, the first 25 to embark on her route as a school bus driver and the last to serve as a monitor. On Friday she went to the bus depot on Purdy Hill Road for her last day on the job.
"I like my kids and the people I work with are very friendly — a big family you know," Clark said.
All-Star Transportation had a picnic in the bus yard on Friday afternoon and everyone posed for a group photo as part of an anti-bullying campaign this October. After the photo, a card and a cake were presented to an emotional Clark in front of her cheering co-workers.
Clark worked for Bee Bee bus company, Laidlaw and First Student before All-Star won a bid process to enter into a contract with the Monroe Board of Education last year.
Clark's bus routes were in the Stevenson section of town for most of her career — on and off for 15 years.
She fondly remembers a boy who went to kindergarten. "He always said, 'Good bye Jean' and one time he accidentally said, 'Good bye mom,' and he turned around and smiled because he realized what he did," Clark recalled. "Years later in middle school he remembered me and said, 'Bye mom' and smiled."
Clark looked back at the bus depot and said, "I'm going to miss the people around here."
One thing she won't miss is driving a bus in bad weather.
No longer driving a bus will take some getting used to.
Clark smiled and said with chuckle, "Sometimes I reach for my radio when I'm in my car."