HANOVER COUNTY, Va. -- A Hanover County neighborhood came together Monday morning to pay tribute to a retiring school bus driver.
Students, parents, and even Hanover County administrators lined the roadway in the Ashcreek neighborhood with signs and cowbells, as Butch Stults drove his final route.
"I think he’s the best bus driver ever," fifth-grader Brandon Rogers, who rode the bus with Mr. Butch for more than three years, said. "Out of all the bus driver substitutes and stuff, they were good, but none of them ever compare to how nice he was and listening and caring he was."
Stults spent 41 years fighting fires in the City of Richmond before becoming a bus driver for Hanover County 13 years ago.
“I used to tease the guys from the firehouse," laughed Stults. "I said these 40 kids I've got on my bus are just as good as the four that rode in the back of the rig."
The beloved bus driver has done than transport kids to school. He's become a staple in the community, driving extra routes to deliver children items they left on the bus and checking on them when they're out sick.
“My daughter, when she was in kindergarten, got sick for a week and was out of school, and he actually came to our door to see what was wrong with her and where she had been," explained Kelly Johnakin. "On his last day, we decided he needed a bit of a send-off.
Students said "he ran a tight ship" and knew how to keep the bus in order. He had special rules like girls always entered and exited the bus first, but he also knew how to have fun.
"He’ll listen to what the kids have to say," Rogers explained. "He’s not one of those mean bus drivers."
Cheers erupted in the neighborhood as Mr. Butch pulled up to his stop. He fought back tears watching students past and present celebrate his last day.
“I lost it," said an emotional Stults. “The kids give back more than what you give the kids, that’s the rewarding part."
While there were tears Monday morning, there were also a lot of laughs.
“I went to start my bus this morning, and it wouldn’t start," he chuckled. "The battery was dead! I said are you kidding me, on the last day.”
The man who dedicated his life to service is taking one last ride with the kids who he says are like family.
It's not a goodbye, he said, just a see you later.
“Thank you for sharing your kids with me," said Stults. "They were awesome, they really are."
Mr. Butch is moving to Florida later this month with his wife. He said he planned to play pickleball and golf every day.
He said he would miss the Richmond community, but was excited to kick back his feet and finally sleep in.
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