All week long the Harrisburg School District is honoring its bus drivers, including a man by the name of George VanDenHul. George has been getting kids safely to and from school in Harrisburg since, get this, 1966.
When VanDenHul came to Harrisburg in 1966, he was one of five bus drivers for the small school district. You can see him pictured here in the bottom right.
“Oh there are a lot of stories. Some good and some bad,” VanDenHul said.
More than 50 years later, the 80-year-old is now sharing a few.
“They don’t have the storms like we used to. Jeepers,” VanDenHul said.
After decades of getting children to school, snow or shine, George is now officially calling it quits. He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and had surgery one year ago. He hasn’t been able to get behind the wheel since.
“I really miss it yet today. The kids, mostly,” VanDenHul said.
These are some of the kids who used to ride with him. Kari, her son Jack and daughter Josie were all carted to class by George.
“He’s the best bus driver I ever had,” Josie said.
Jack loved the country music George would play. Kari remembers his big smile.
“I mean I came back to Harrisburg to raise my kids because it’s such a great community. All along my bus driver was one of those who was building the community. He’s a pretty great guy,” Kari said.
A guy the community trusts. George helped evacuate students following a shooting at Harrisburg High School in 2015. He was also part of a group that helped get the city’s baseball field built and even served as the local fire chief.
When George first started with the Harrisburg School District, there was just one building. It’s grown a bit since then. There are now nine with two more on the way.
“Back in ’66 it was just a real small school, a real small community. All the roads were gravel. He drove on all the roads. Owned his own bus,” Timmerman said.
Bus Supervisor Roger Timmerman was a senior at Harrisburg High back then when 300 people lived in town. He says George will be greatly missed.
Matt Holsen: What makes a good bus driver?
George VanDenHul: Just get along good with the kids.
He did such a good job of that, the kids and the community will honor George’s service by holding a special day in his honor.
“Feels great. Feels good to be honored. The 28th I’ve got a big deal with the city, the mayor and everything. I don’t know if I can handle everything,” VanDenHul said.
He’s grateful for the support. It makes him tear up when he thinks about it.
“A little bit. I don’t know. I’m just an emotional person that’s all,” VanDenHul said.
During his last years as a bus driver, George was picking up 70 kids on eight stops in Harrisburg.
February 28th has been declared as George VanDenHul Day in town. There will be a special gathering from 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. at 518 Marketplace.