Community pays tribute to South Plympton’s favourite bus driver

Bruce Roane with some of the kids from his South Plympton School bus in 2018. He died March 9 at the age of 85.

Bruce Roane, who drove three generations of kids to school, died March 9

He was one of the first faces students of South Plympton School saw each morning for 55 years.

Bruce Roane, a bus driver for the rural school on Confederation Line for 55 years before it closed in 2018, died March 9 after a long battle with cancer. Friday, his family boarded a school bus to accompany him to his final resting place in Wyoming.

Bruce Roane’s family boarded a bus Friday to travel to the cemetery. It was a tribute to his long service as a bus driver for South Plympton School.

Pam Dobbin says she and her sister, Connie Macpherson, knew her dad was well loved, particularly by the kids from the school, but as people reach out to them, they’re finding out the quiet, generous things her dad would do without any fanfare.

There was the family who moved in down the street. They didn’t have jobs, so Roane brought them groceries.

Another family he knew had three children heading to university and money was tight. Roane found mini-fridges for their dorm rooms.

Roane never told anyone what he had done. “He never wanted praise or looked to be in the limelight,” Dobbin says.

Sometimes, Dobbin says, her dad would be surprised when he did receive praise.

Roane was the long-time bus driver for the Mooretown Flags. He would return home from his daily bus route at the school, pick up a bagged lunch his wife, Eleanor, had made and headed out to Mooretown to pick up the team. Some of the bus rides were long and and the roads were often snow covered, says Dobbin, but he always got the team to the games safely and in plenty of time.

Each year, the Flags would invite him to their appreciation banquet and Dobbin says he would be shocked when he was recognized and thanked by the team for doing his job. The Flags gave him his own jacket which, she says, he wore often with pride.

Roane was a skilled driver without an accident on his record. And when Snowmageddon hit Lambton County in 2010 and drivers were stranded on the 402, Roane was asked to drive a bus from Wyoming to the Reece’s Corners truck stop to bring stranded drivers to safety.

Dobbin says her dad went without thinking about the weather. “Ill get those people to where it is warm,” Dobbin says he told her mother, who was more than a little worried about the trip. Dobbin said her dad reassured Eleanor. “I got a snowplow ahead of me, the police are there. I’ll get them back.”

Plympton-Wyoming Mayor Lonny Napper also remembered Roane’s skill that day when he paid tribute to him at the March 10 council meeting.

“The one thing that really sticks out in my mind is the night we had Snowmageddon. He took the school bus out to the truck stop and loaded up with people out there to bring him back in here. And I understand from whoever was right in the front seat who says it was hard to see the windshield wipers and he drove that bus through.”

It wasn’t his first heroic act, says Dobbin. The family learned through online condolences he had once pulled a young girl back into the bus as a driver tried to pass him on the right hand side. The student, now a adult, says Roane saved her life that day.

There are likely many more stories of Roane’s kindness behind the wheel of that big yellow bus. At the time the South Plympton School closed in 2018, it was estimated Roane had driven more than two million miles in his career and met three generations of Plympton-Wyoming kids.

And he was well loved; former students would often approach him in local stores asking if they knew him. Some of the children on his last bus route were the grandchildren of former riders.

“I love the little kids, especially the ones in junior and senior kindergarten and Grade 1,” he told The Independent when he was named to the Mayors Appreciation List. “They tell the stories from home and they’re all true.

“I’ve had extremely good kids. When I hear what some of the other bus drivers say, why, I’m just real lucky – fortunate.”

Napper drove with him on his last ride to the school and says “I couldn’t believe how Bruce can almost remember all those kids’ names.”

While many knew Roane as their bus driver, he was also an elder in the Wyoming Presbyterian Church, a member of the local Lodge and the Plympton-Wyoming Agricultural Society, all for more than 50 years.

For Dobbin and her sister, he was the man who just wanted to be around family. With the pandemic and Roane’s illness, that was tough during the last year.

When doctors placed him in palliative care his much loved family came to visit him two by two. Dobbin says he passed away right after his last niece was able to say goodbye.

“He knew he’d seen everyone,” says Dobbin.