Parents say ‘goodbye’ and ‘thank you’ to local bus driver in big way

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PENDER COUNTY, NC (WWAY) – A group of Pender County parents are sending a sweet message to one school bus driver.

“It’s amazing how quick the time went,” said Gerald Thompson. “I mean it’s been six years but it does not feel like six years.”

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In those six years, Thompson has not only been a bus driver but a guardian for the kids of bus 248.

“That’s what gets me up in the morning,” said Thompson.

Following his military retirement, Thompson and his wife moved to North Carolina to take care of his dad. Eventually his job search landed him in the Pender County School system.

“I never in my wildest dreams thought I would drive a bus. I was quite intimidated initially.”

Parents like Kristin Tortorici see him as more than the man who gets her kids to school and back home.

“He definitely goes above and beyond the average bus driver,” Tortorici said. “He knows all of the kids names. He waves to all of the parents and if there is a problem he reaches out to the parents.”

He found creative ways to keep the kids well-behaved on the bus.

“I tell you what, if you guys can stay in your seats, I will make sure I get something special for you and they got to choose the own kind of candy they liked plus the ones, there’s six that’s left. They got their own medal, I have a medal with my picture on it and on the back it says ‘thanks for being great on bus 248.'”

However, it’s the last time he will do that. Thompson is retiring and moving with his wife and grandson to take care of her family.

“I wanted to do whatever I could to support him on his next endeavor,” Tortorici said.

Tortorici along with other parents of route 248 have collected more than one thousand dollars to help Thompson’s family. Some of it came from a local bar-b-cue and more online.

“We want to thank him for everything he’s done,” she said. “Again as a retired service member, thank him for his service to our country and wish him and his family well into retirement.”

It’s their way of saying to Mr. Thompson, ‘You did great for the kids of bus 248.’

“I’m really grateful to all the parents that are involved and just the community in general,” Thompson said.