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By LeAnn R. Ralph
COLFAX — Charlie Owen and Jon Suckow, who both served as bus drivers in the Colfax school district for many years, have retired.
The two veteran bus drivers were honored at the Colfax school district’s staff appreciation banquet at Whitetail Golf Course May 29.
Darrell Schauer, who also was recognized at the banquet, retired in the summer of 2011.
Unfortunately, Schauer was overlooked the next year at the staff banquet, and William C. Yingst Jr., school superintendent, said he had been made aware of the situation over the past year and wanted to correct the oversight.
“I’ve always said it is never too late to right a wrong. Darrell worked for us for 28 years as a custodian, a night custodian, and he did some maintenance work as well,” he said.
Charlie Owen began driving buses for the Colfax school district after he retired as a deputy with the Dunn County Sheriff’s Department.
“Charlie Owen has been a staple on our bus-driving team for many years. Charlie is a retired deputy sheriff and a career law-enforcement officer. He’s the type of guy you can count on to come through in any situation,” Yingst said.
“Also, he voluntarily handled our extra-curricular bus scheduling for all of the time he drove bus for us. He has been active in the Colfax Sportsmen’s Club. Charlie has always been very safety conscious. He has dedicated his life to the safety and well-being of others. He has been a true guardian, and it has been a pleasure working with you,” Yingst said.
“All I have to say is, when I first started driving school bus — I put in one year in the early 70s — but back then, the worst problem I can remember having on the bus was that Copenhagen on the floor,” Owen said.
Owen then shared a story of his first day as a bus driver:
When I started in Colfax here my very first day, it was a memorable day. The morning went real well. The afternoon went pretty good, too.
You know at Colfax, we had the little rug rats. Some come in the morning. Some come in the afternoon. It was not uncommon not to see the same faces of the little ones in the afternoon that you’d see in the morning.
I drove up M toward 64, and I must have been five, six, seven miles out of town, and I hear all this radio traffic — a J-K [junior kindergarten] kid was missing.
So I hollered out at the bus, “Is so-and-so here?”
No. Nope. Not here.
Now they’re still looking for the kid, and now they’ve got police officers looking. It’s a regular Dragnet going on out there.
I backed into a driveway and let some kids off the bus, and I walked back a couple of seats.
I said to a little girl, “What’s your name?” And she wouldn’t talk.
I said, “Are you so-and-so?” And she said, “Yeah.”
“Oh, well,” I said. “You got on the wrong bus.”
What I forgot to tell you is in the morning, I backed into that same driveway. It went fine when I took the bus out before school started. That morning, I broke the antenna off. Wayne never got around to fixing it that day, and I went out in the afternoon and found out I had this stray on — and everyone is looking for her — and I know where she’s at — but I can’t tell a soul.
She’s bawling and bawling.
First off, I asked her what her mommy’s name was.
“Mommy,” she says.
I finally did get a first name out of her.
Everything turned out good. But it actually went uphill from there.
Jon Suckow drove school buses for the Colfax school district for many years after retiring as the administrator at the Colfax Area Nursing Home.
“Jon, through his work, was in a career of service. He worked at the nursing home as an administrator for many years. He’s been a handy man for many years, and a bus driver. He served his country in the United States Marine Corps as a machine gunner in Vietnam. I want to thank you sincerely for your service for that. Jon likes to visit with the children on his bus. He always gets the job done, and he has delivered our students safely for many years,” Yingst said.
Suckow also shared a story from his first day of driving a school bus:
It’s been a fast 12 years. Dennis Geissler gave me a call and asked if I would sub as a bus driver.
I said I would give it a try.
I had my CDL, got my school bus driver’s license. My first trip I took, I hadn’t even hauled a load of students before, and it happened to be Kara Zutter.
We went to the Mall of America.
I had never been to the Mall of America.
It was snowing like hell.
I don’t know if Kara realized it or not, but I was kind of shaky. It was a good thing my O rings were tight. It was a [wild] ride home [in the snow].
Anyway, it’s something I will never forget.
It’s kind of ironic that Kara is retiring tonight. I hope I had nothing to do with that.
I want to thank the school board and the school district, Bill, John, Trevor, everybody — it’s been a pleasure working for you.
I want to commend all of the bus drivers … [they’re] a great bunch of people. They’re caring and safe, and I can’t say enough good about them.