James Berg’s “Heard on the Bus” column in the Sahuarita Sun and Green Valley News gave readers an insight into a man of high moral character who was dedicated to his students and was much more than a bus driver.
Berg, 86, drove the bus one final time on Friday before hanging up the keys for good.
There was the story about running into a former student wearing an Air Force uniform who thanked Berg for putting him on the straight and narrow years earlier, and the one about Berg reading Christmas stories to the young ones in class, just to name a few columns that readers will surely miss.
Mr. Jim, as the students called him, was in his ninth year as a bus driver with Sahuarita Unified School District. He didn’t make the decision to resign lightly when he and his wife decided to move to the Seattle area to be closer to family.
“It’s difficult for me. We are going to be selling our house and moving back up to Washington state,” he said. “I know the weather’s not the same, but you can’t beat having your relatives there.”
Berg and his wife visited Sahuarita on vacation and fell in love with the town before moving here 14 years ago. Driving the bus wasn’t work for the retired building contractor with time on his hands; it was an opportunity to connect with students.
“The kids — and that’s the thing a lot of people shy away from — but the kids are everything.”
It’s not just the students whose lives Berg affected. One morning he found out that a bus driver he was training was afraid of the students, and Berg knew how to help.
“The next morning, she rode with me and I picked up all the kids and I pulled over, I stood up and I announced: ‘Ladies and gentlemen, I want you to meet this young lady, she’s working to be a school bus driver, and I want you to welcome her,’ he said. “The kids cheered and that took care of all of her worries. She’s turned out to be one of the best bus drivers this group has ever had.”
As Berg approaches the next chapter of his life, there is no mistaking what he will miss most.
“The only thing you can miss about bus driving is your kids, because after a while they are your kids; you can’t help it. You drive them back and forth to school, and you know where they live, you know the parents,” Berg said. “The kids are everything. It certainly isn’t the buses or much else. For me, it’s just flat-out the kids.”