WOODBURY – If you’re a student from Woodbury and Bethlehem who attends Abbott Tech High School in Danbury, you know there’s one person you can always count on, and that’s bus driver Ron Bernier. Since 2010, the year he started driving a school bus, Bernier has not missed a day of work.
“I agreed that when I came to work here that I would work,” says Bernier. “It’s a work ethic. You show up all the time. You have to have some pride in your work.”
Nodding in the direction of Manager Pam Boulier’s office at the Woodbury terminal, he adds, “She depends on us. If you miss work, she has to steal someone from another route and that leads to other complications.”
Bernier first began driving for First Student in Bethlehem and then stayed with All-Star Transportation when it took over that route and others in 2014. Prior to becoming a school bus driver, he drove tractor trailers for 30 years for New Penn Motor Express.
“Ron is not only is extremely dependable, but he is always willing to do anything he is asked,” says Boulier. “He never says no. Ron always goes above and beyond.”
In fact, the only thing that has kept Bernier from work in recent years has been cancer. Three times he has been treated for colon cancer, and three times he beat it and now is cancer free.
“It didn’t want to give up and neither did I,” he says. And at age 78, he gives no indication of slowing down. At his home in Bethlehem, where he’s lived for 30 years, he keeps busy splitting wood and tending to his animals. He has a small barn where he keeps a mini donkey and a mini pony. Up until four years ago, he also had a horse, an Appaloosa that lived to be 38 years old.
Raised in Waterbury, Bernier says, “I always wanted to live on a farm.” Adding with a smile, “I like animals better than people.”
Bernier is also an accomplished musician. He plays classical piano, explaining, “I love playing, playing mostly for myself.” He is so talented that at age 17 he was targeted for an interview at Yale University. But he didn’t show up for the interview, and so missed his opportunity to continue his education. Looking back, he explains, “I was 17 and being stupid.”
Asked to list the biggest challenge he sees for drivers today, he wastes no time in citing distracted drivers. “I always see other drivers with their heads down, looking at their phones. They get preoccupied, distracted. Look at what happened in Chattanooga,” he said, referring to a school bus crash in November 2016 that killed six children. The driver was on his phone at the time of the accident.
As for his job All-Star, Bernier couldn’t be happier. “I have the best boss,” he says. “The best one I ever had, and the nicest person.”