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Lois Janzen provided safe passage over 4 decades

Staff writer

After providing 46 years of safe passage to an estimated 1,800 Goessel students, former bus driver Lois Janzen has earned the right to retire four years shy of her golden anniversary with USD 411.

Over the years, Janzen saw her share of bad road conditions as she braved the elements carrying parents’ precious cargo, including five of her own, and for her, those spirited students—toting textbooks and duffel bags ripe with sporting equipment—are now pleasant memories.

“I loved the kids,” she said. “I had a lot of fun driving.”

In her time, at about 15,000 miles per year for 41 years and about 3,000 per year in her last five years, Janzen shuttled students approximately 630,000 miles to and from school, sporting events, and extracurricular activities with no traffic accidents.

Across four decades, Janzen drove two, and in some cases, three generations of bus riders from the same family.

Chelan Duerksen’s mother, Agatha, rode Janzen’s bus as a schoolgirl.

He, and his wife Megan, had Janzen as a driver while they were in school. More recently, Janzen drove two of their three children as a substitute driver.

“It’s almost unheard of these days for someone to stick with a job for that long,” Chelan said. “She definitely has a servant’s heart.”

Having also experienced her as his bus driver when he was a student, USD 411 school board member James Wiens echoed the Duerksens’ appreciation for Janzen’s dedicated service.

He described her as “selfless, always kind, and motherly.” He said his sons also had Janzen as a substitute bus driver.

“She had a way of keeping order on the bus while at the same time letting you know she cared about you as a person,” Wiens said.”

Janzen regularly reviewed proper school bus etiquette with riders. She asked them to stay in their seats while the bus was moving, keep the aisle clear, and hang on to their property, among other rules.

“I was pretty strict,” she said. “Kids are a lot louder now. We used to have more farm families. I think kids might have seemed more orderly because they were tired from doing chores.”

She prided herself on a keeping a punctual and reliable schedule.

“I’ve always been a morning person,” she said. “I was usually up at 3:30 a.m. milking the dairy cows on our farm before I would head out on my route.”

“One former student I saw at a funeral told me I was the bus driver that they could set their clock by,” Janzen continued. “I was always prompt.”

Through the years, Janzen said she noticed that the school district always seemed to use her as a “guinea pig” because she was usually the driver they asked to drive new buses.

“The first two buses I drove were gasoline, the third bus was the first diesel bus the district had,” she said. “I was afraid it wouldn’t start.”

When Janzen started driving, more kids rode the bus so the district had nine buses. She said the district only has four buses now.

“More kids have cars and drive to school now,” she said.

Last modified Dec. 3, 2014

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