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January 23, 2019

12/14/2018 1:48:00 PM
Chuck Virtue marks 50 years of driving bus for school districts, including Iowa-Grant
"It's been rewarding to do something that you love, and I enjoy being with the kids," explained Chuck Virtue, who has been a bus driver for the past 50 years with different school districts - he is a bus driver at the Iowa-Grant School District for both mornings and afternoons where he has been the past few years. "There's a quote that says 'Choose a job you'll love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.' I think that's been true for me these past 50 years. I cannot imagine doing anything else, and I wouldn't want to."
An influential person in Virtue's life was Mr. Lewis Hillard who asked a fifth-grade student, (Virtue), if he would ever think of driving bus. Virtue replied that he would, and he thought that he might "kinda like it." From that day on, Virtue has his sights set on being a bus driver - a dream that came true the day before Thanksgiving in 1968.
Virtue recalls that weekend as the longest of his life as he "had to wait four days until he could get his hands on the wheel and drive bus again" as it was a long weekend due to the holiday. "I was like a kid who just got his drivers license. I just wanted to drive the bus," Virtue recalls.
Virtue has driven bus for several area school districts including Galena, Hazel Green, Platteville, and Iowa-Grant. He works for WARCO Transportation as both a school bus driver and a coach driver.
"He [Virtue] has always got a smile on his face. He's a very kind, patient person, especially with the students," said WARCO Transportation President Tom Hoffmann. "He's always got a good one-liner comment which makes him very unique. The kids look up to him and get a kick out of him."
Additionally, Virtue has started his own travel business for local Amish and Mennonite families along with being a farmer. "My business is going well, and I'm like a taxi for these communities," he stated.
Virtue is very proud of his safety record as he has had no crashes, but has had two close calls - Virtue remembers them both vividly. The first one was when a kid on his bus blinded him with his own coat. He was able to get over to the side of the road safely but was and is baffled by the kid's behavior to this day. "He was a good kid and came from a nice family. I don't know what got into him that day. I froze at the wheel and got over to the side of the road. Luckily, I only had two families left to drop off, and nobody was injured," he said. "The kid never did it again."
The second incident happened when he was driving bus for Hazel Green. There was an intersection one mile out of town where his bus would always meet the same Benton bus driver who "was known for being a lead foot," Virtue explained. On the narrow, windy road it was almost impossible for two buses to be on opposite sides of the road to go by. On this particular occasion, the Benton bus driver drove that road quickly and didn't even slow down for Virtue's bus; however, Virtue quickly assessed the situation and pulled over to the side of the road while the other bus was going by. While nobody was hurt, the bus was damaged with steel marks on the windows from where the other bus scraped Virtue's. "I never met that bus again, and later that summer, the road got straightened," he mentioned.
When he's not busy tying kids' shoelaces or handing out Tootsie Rolls (Virtue jokes that he's Farm and Fleet's best customer), he's making friends with the students he drives saying "you gotta love the kids, and they know you gotta love them or you'll be butting heads. I like picking on kids, but it's all in fun. They know that."
Along with Tootsie Rolls, Virtue makes it his mission that nobody gets on his bus with untied shoelaces as "someone else can step on them and then, they're taking a faceplant, hitting the cement hard. I don't want that to happen!"
There have been a lot of changes the past 50 years that Virtue has been a bus driver - Virtue explained that basically everything has changed with his job from the students and parents to the equipment he uses. His first bus he drove in 1968 was a 1955 Ford bus, which was actually one of the newer ones. Also, the times have changed as it's "not easy being a kid anymore," he said along with the dynamics between parents and kids and teachers changing.
A question that has been asked to Virtue a lot lately is whether he is planning on retiring, and he says that it is out of the question currently as he loves it so much. "There's a lot of good things about my job. I cannot just walk away," he stated. "I love my job and have no reason to quit. I love driving and have always loved it."

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