KEARNEY — After more than a decade on Kearney’s route No. 7, Harold Heflin’s tenure at the helm of a Kearney School District bus has come to an end.
Heflin, who lived in Holt and has worked for Durham School Services since 2008, passed away Jan. 9 at age 78.
“He worked for us for 13 school years” said Tisa Wright, Kearney’s bus barn manager for Durham. “He would just do anything for anyone. … He was always here, always good to the kids.”
For roughly 45 to 50 elementary and secondary school families in Kearney’s farthest southwest portion of the district, Heflin was a constant, being their bus driver through elementary and middle school. The role was one he took seriously.
“He was respectful of the kids and they of him,” said Wright.
“I’ve been here 16 years and for 13 here at Dogwood so I’ve known Harold a long time. I remember one time when I came out as his bus was here and he joking wagged his finger at me and said, ‘Don’t you understand, those are my kids.’ I laughed and said, ‘I know, they are my kids, too.’ That’s just how he was, he treated those kids like his own grandchildren,” said Dogwood Elementary School Principal Janelle Nelson. “He had high expectations of them and he was well-respected.”
Promptness was another trait Heflin was known for, Nelson said. Families could almost set their watch to when he would arrive to pick students up and drop them off each day.
“He was on time, and if he ever wasn’t, which was rare, he would let you know why with, ‘Hey, there’s a bridge out, road was slick,’ whatever it was. He would always let you know what was going on,” said Nelson.
In addition to working as a Kearney bus driver, Heflin was a retired trucking professional. He was the second driver to be hired by Material Transport and went on to become their superintendent. At the time of his retirement, he was the company’s trucking manager.
Wright said whether at work or during his off time, Heflin was known to be a helping hand who never sought praise for his good deeds.
“If anyone ever needed anything, like if another driver was running late, sick or having issues, whatever, Harold would be the first to offer help to pick up kids of whatever you needed,” she said. “In his off time, he even did snowblading for people’s driveways and didn’t take anything for it. You often wouldn’t even know he had been there unless you heard him. That’s just who he was.”
“He was one of a kind,” said Nelson.
Heflin’s daughter, Tonya Heflin Sumption, said the outpouring of support and kind words her family have received means the world to hear family.
“We have heard so many stories about my father these last few days,” she said. “I keep saying he was the most selfless man, and by the stories we have heard, he truly was. He would show up unannounced to blade someone’s driveway or take them to work if their car broke down, never mentioning to anyone what he had done. … He loved all of the kids that he drove for over the years. He will truly be missed by so many.”
In addition to his family and the families of the students on his Kearney bus route, Wright said the bus barn at Kearney schools is feeling the loss of Heflin.
“We have two other guys here that were always with him. They were like the three musketeers. They are taking it pretty hard,” Wright said.Managing Editor Amanda Lubinski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 903-6001.