Honest, hard-working, and protective of his students, who he tended to refer to as “his kids,” bus driver Ken Crane passed away at age 77. According to his obituary, he had been in a “short battle with COVID-19 pneumonia.”
Before becoming a bus driver, Crane had been a “self-employed route salesman” for southwest Iowa for Little Debbie Snack Cakes. This job lasted 25 years until Crane decided to retire and begin driving buses for the Atlantic Community School District. He was fond of the students in his route, treating them as if they were his own kids.
Crane started his driving career as a sub-driver in 2011 before upgrading to a route driver in 2013. The route he took was referred to as the “Marne Route” and included a contracted two a.m. hours and two p.m. hours. In addition to his daily route, Crane drove for many activities and sporting event.
Crane had three high-school riders on his route at the time of his death. Freshman Hudson Goff remembers “always getting greeted with a smile and a good morning” whenever he got on the bus. Goff rode on the Marne route since first grade and thought Crane was a “very caring, kind, helpful” person.
He said Crane “always knew how to handle a situation no matter the circumstances.” Goff said it was “heartbreaking” when the news finally sank in. “He was a really great guy,” Goff said.
Junior Angelica Anderson has fond memories of her time with Crane since he has been her bus driver since she first moved into the Atlantic district.
“He was one of my best friends,” said Anderson. Crane always made an effort to support Anderson’s endeavors, from buying spaghetti supper tickets for the band fundraiser, to ensuring that Anderson had a seatmate when she asked.
“The last time I saw him was before I got quarantined,” she said. Afterward, Anderson watched the bus drive by out the window as social distancing took hold.
“When I found out [about Crane’s death] I basically broke down in tears at the dinner table,” said Anderson. Still, Anderson believes she has found “peace of mind” about the event.
Crane’s third high-school passenger was freshman Charli Goff. Goff rode with Crane since second grade. She found him to be “very caring” and “adaptive because he would do things specified for a specific person.” Some fond memories of their time together included when she and her brother were the first on the bus and would engage in unique conversations with Crane.
Mark Weis, transportation director at the bus garage, said that Crane was a “great colleague and a great person to work with.” He said that Crane was the first driver to get to the garage every morning in order to ensure his bus remained “spotless!”
Weis first met Crane through an interview committee when they were determining if Weis would be able to become the Transportation Director. “When I listened to how Ken described the drivers and the environment at the bus garage, I knew I wanted to work with him,” said Weis.
Some of Weis’s favorite memories with Crane include listening in on the stories that Clair Acker, Dave Wheatley, and Crane would share every morning. “I learned a lot about this community from those three,” said Weis.
He said Crane was a “straight shooter” that would tell you bluntly what he thought about things in a way that was “pretty accurate.” If Crane didn’t know something, he would admit to not knowing. “Ken didn’t try to impress you with talk, he used action,” Weis said that Crane tried his best to build a good relationship with the kids on his bus along with their parents. “He cared.”
An open memorial was held on Jan. 4 and Jan. 5 at the Roland Funeral Home without the family present. A private memorial for family members was then held at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church. A tribute to Ken Crane can be found here.
This story was originally published on AHSneedle on February 9, 2021.