Aurora -- Ruth Studer started driving an Aurora school bus in 1976 so she could drive her special needs son, Mark, to the former Lake Elementary School.
The bus supervisor at the time was John Renzel, who suggested to her, "Why don't you drive a bus [on a regular basis]?"
So she did.
Mark rode on her bus, which serviced the Geauga Lake area. Over the years, thousands of Aurora kids rode on her bus.
Now, Studer, 75, is stepping down after nearly 38 years of driving an Aurora district bus.
Although her official retirement date is Jan. 1, Studer stopped driving Oct. 10 in anticipation of surgery to replace her right knee. She had her left knee replaced four years ago.
"I miss it already," she said about driving. "I go by the bus garage so often, and I say, 'There's my bus.'" That would be No. 34.
More recently, her bus routes were for students attending Walsh Jesuit High School and Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy in Cuyahoga Falls.
"Driving a bus was easy for me," she said. "It doesn't feel any different than driving a car. You automatically make wider turns. A bus doesn't go around the corner as fast as a car. I'd rather be safe than sorry."
Superintendent Russ Bennett said she was "a wonderful employee all these years."
"Ruth cared about each of her students and had great pride in being an employee of the Aurora schools," he said. "We were very fortunate to have her with the district for over 37 years. We wish her the best as she opens a new chapter in her life. I'm sure the thousands of students she met over the years have very fond memories of her."
STUDER SAID a lot of parents have told her they miss her. "That made me feel good," she said.
She fondly referred to an Election Day photo in the Nov. 13 Advocate of her sitting at a polling location at the Bertram Inn next to former City Councilman Bob Galaska Jr., who used to ride on her bus.
Studer was fond of her young passengers. "I loved the kids," she said. "I knew their names, especially when you picked them up door-to-door, so you knew them all."
Greg Pollock, former transportation director, said she was "always reliable, personable and caring."
"Ruth was never in a hurry, always on time with her routes and early to work," said Pollock, who works in an administrative position with the South Euclid-Lyndhurst schools now. "Ruth is a throwback from another generation. She's a trooper and one of a kind. I always enjoyed talking to her. She is very proud of her family."
Her family included husband George, who died May 14 at age 77, daughter Cindy and sons Mark, Tony and Adrion. Interestingly, her sister-in-law is also named Ruth Studer. The other Ruth's former husband Howard is George's brother.
"It was confusing if either of us went to a bank or a medical center and if people saw our driver's licenses," the former bus driver said.
Studer has had many other tasks to keep her busy. She used to raise horses. At one time, she had 17, some at her farm and some at the Walden Stables. She sold her remaining horses about three years ago because she said the price of hay "went sky-high."
"IT WAS hard to get rid of them," she noted. "It took a while to get used to not having them around."
For 40 years, Studer has been a 4-H club adviser and attended the Portage County Randolph Fair. She originally got involved because her daughter wanted a horse, while Cindy's girlfriend also was in 4-H and the adviser was stepping down. They were part of a club called the Mustangers. Mark Studer also was involved in 4-H.
She became the photography adviser as well.
Studer buys and sells antiques at two locations -- Bainbridge Antiques on Washington Street in Bainbridge Township and Copper Kettle Antiques on Main Street in Ravenna. She also helps out the Aurora Historical Society.
"It's fun to go to estate sales," she said. "You can see what other people are buying and what they're paying."
Until about 2009, Studer helped out the Volunteers of America, transporting to the Marketplace at Four Corners Walmart a 3-foot-tall chimney that held collections during the Christmas season. Previously, she helped organize bell ringers for the Salvation Army at Aurora Farms Premium Outlets. Donations went to the Aurora Food Pantry.
"I went to churches and civic organizations to try to recruit bell ringers," she said.
As the holiday season approaches, Studer sometimes thinks about the many students she transported to school through the years.
"Time goes by so fast," she said. "But I enjoyed it."
Phone: 330-541-9400 ext. 4187