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Best of SNO

The best stories being published on the SNO Sites network

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Remembering George Monack: Harker’s grandfather figure

Harker faculty reflect on the impact recently passed bus driver George Monack had on the Harker community
George Monack affixes snow chains to the wheels of his school bus. “He was so focused on making sure that everything was just right, just perfectly safe,” fellow bus driver Joe Rosenthal said. (Provided by Pam Dickinson)

A sleek, black Harley-Davidson motorcycle roars down the street. A beaming man with a neatly groomed handlebar mustache revs the engine, his wife nestled right behind him. This may seem like a scene from a 60s Hollywood movie, but was just one of recently passed bus driver George Monack’s everyday adventures.

Harker’s boarding school’s students and teachers knew Monack as a warm, familiar face who always waved a hearty greeting. Monack, who worked as a bus driver from 1990-2000, cherished his job and dedicated himself to transporting the Harker community in the safest way possible. Fellow bus driver Joe Rosenthal recounts that students would tell their parents about Monack, referring to him as “the bus driver.”

“George was meticulous about making sure that the vehicle was working just perfectly before the students could come on board,” Rosenthal said. “He was so focused on making sure that everything was just right. He’d always check where we were going and by what roads. He was such a professional and so thoughtful.”

Office of Communication director Pam Dickinson, who worked with Monack for ten years, often accompanied him along with the rest of the staff on boarding school overnight trips. From his everyday routes to school field trips, Monack expertly navigated his bus and arrived punctually. Even in the most treacherous weather conditions, Monack unfailingly delivered his passengers safely.

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“We used to do ski trips, and he would drive us to Bear Valley,” Dickinson said. “[During] one trip the roads were not great and it was dark. There was a huge snowstorm that we were driving through, and everybody was nervous. But George was so calm, and he got us all there and got us off the bus.”

Monack’s commitment to his job embodied the Harker spirit of dedication, and led many students to look up to him.

“George is a part of Harker culture,” Rosenthal said. “He was a perfect model for our culture where it’s cool to try your very best at whatever you’re doing. He earned the respect of his colleague bus drivers, but also all the faculty and all the teachers due to his total confidence in his ability to take care of them and drive them safely.”

Monack beams as he experiences skydiving for the first time. He made his first skydiving adventure at 82. (Provided by Pam Dickinson)

Monack’s job as a bus driver also meant chunks of spare time were interspersed in his workday. Immersing himself in books, Monack’s name soon became synonymous with reading to students and faculty.

“You never saw George without a book in his hand,” Dickinson said. “Even when he went to the beach, he had a book. He was always reading books. When he was bus driving and helping with security, you’d see him on breaks with his nose in a book. Kids were in the boarding program, and George was like a parent or a grandfather figure to them.”

The Harker community largely loved Monack for his ability to hear their stories. Always making students at ease on bus rides, Monack instilled comfort in those around him.

“George was enormously aware of other people and was genuinely kind,” Rosenthal said. “Any of the kids during the many, many years that he was a bus driver, they all know George. He was always so interested in what the students were doing, whether it be sports games or field trips. He would always take the time to talk to you.”

Heather Armada, Director of Transportation at Harker, echoed Rosenthal’s sentiments on Monack’s ability to always engage those around him.

“He loved the kids,” Armada said. “I feel like he made the kids around [feel] important. Especially with the international students, not a lot of them spoke English really well, and they usually gravitated towards him, so I think he was definitely happiest around the students.”

Everybody loved him, everywhere he went

— Heather Armada, bus driver

Monack served as a mentor for Armada when she first joined Harker and started bus driving. Armada noted that Monack was renowned for his mustache as well as the respect he gave to everyone around him.

“Everybody loved him, everywhere he went,” Armada said. “He had this huge handlebar mustache, and so all the kids used to kind of idolize him with that. Way back in the 90s, it was just such an iconic look. Everyone gave him respect and he respected others. He respected everybody, no matter who they were, or how old they were, or whatever they were doing on campus.”

Monack’s impact on the Harker community remains immeasurable. During his time at Harker, he didn’t just stop at his job––he truly lifted up the people around him.

“[George and I] talked before he passed: we looked at the pictures, and just the memories for him meant a lot,” Dickinson said. “He really enjoyed his time. The things that make us proud are often just doing things we love and doing them well.”

This story was originally published on Harker Aquila on February 21, 2024.