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Albion bus driver retires after 30-plus years

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 25 June 2015 at 12:00 am

Photos by Tom Rivers

ALBION – For more than 30 years Joe Riley has greeted Albion school children with a friendly face and kind words while bringing them to school and driving them home.

Riley drove the bus for the last time today, finishing a route around noon for elementary kids on a half-day of school. He is pictured wearing a shirt with a big “H” given to him by his co-workers. Riley drove bus “H” for Albion.

That letter will be retired from the bus fleet and the bus will become letter “L” next school year.

“He will be missed so much around here,” said Lea Olles, bus supervisor. She has worked with Riley for the past 20 years.

For more than 30 years Riley has driven a school bus, typically arriving at work at 6 a.m. and sometimes not getting home til late at night if he was driving for an athletic event.

“He has been a great employee,” Olles said. “He’s just a great person. There’s not one person he doesn’t get along with.”

The elementary school announced over the public address system that Riley was retiring today. He received numerous hand shakes and hugs, including from parents of the current students. Riley has watched generations of Albionites grow up.

“I’ve been fortunate to have good kids on the bus,” Riley said today. “A lot of the kids know me.”

He gets a lot of greetings when he goes to the grocery store or is out in the community.

Riley, 75, didn’t intend to work so long driving a school bus. He worked at Liptons in Albion until that plant closed in 1979. Then he worked at General Electric in Brockport until that site shut down in the mid-1980s.

Riley originally was a part-time school bus driver for a few years until he became full-time in 1986.

He considered moving out of Albion for other jobs, but he decided to stay put where there was a job close to home working with children and families he’s know for years.

“He’s one of a kind,” said Pete Toenniessen, a bus driver since 1998. “He’s old school. He’s here because he enjoys the kids.”

Dawn Pulcino has worked as a bus driver for five years. She said Riley gave the bus garage a boost with his positive energy.

“He’s always been very happy-go-lucky at work,” she said. “I’ve never seen him grumpy.”