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For Jimmy Fox, school bus driving was a mission field.
A retired Baptist minister, Fox has stepped down as a bus driver for Indian Land schools, where for a decade he greeted each child by name, sent them birthday and Christmas cards and encouraged them to do their best.
“I love relating to the students more than driving the bus,” said Fox, 73, a Van Wyck native. “If kids were having trouble with a lesson, I would help them with it. I tried to teach them politeness, manners and how to treat others.”
Fox was recognized with a service award from the Lancaster County School District last spring.
Teachers and parents miss seeing him behind the wheel; students miss his smiling face, bubble gum and birthday cards.
“His love for all students is shown by his ‘fatherly’ interaction with them,” said Patty Bridges, a first-grade teacher at Indian Land Elementary School. “He smiles, speaks, does his special handshake and eats with those students who need a special lunch buddy.”
Fox drove the Van Wyck community route for two years, then bused the children of the Legacy Park neighborhood until his retirement. Both were four busloads of children each school day.
“The students on his Legacy Park bus always greet him with extra excitement, which is what I will remember most about Mr. Fox – his commitment to do whatever it takes to make students feel special and wanted,” said Bridges, who nominated Fox for the service award.
Christy Rittereiser said her daughter, Kirsten, remembers Fox for his kindness and the bubble gum he gave her every Friday.
“Mr. Fox represented Indian Land well,” said Rittereiser, a mother of three. “We always knew he would be on time and the children would get to school safely. He was dependable to the minute. If I ever had a concern about something on the bus, it was handled immediately.”
The Legacy Park resident also liked that Fox took an interest in the children.
“They received a birthday card in the mail each year,” she said. “Even after he stopped driving the elementary school children, he attended the fifth-grade play. Afterward, he sent Kirsten a note congratulating her on her performance and telling Annika he missed seeing her each day. We sure do miss his whistle and signature thumbs-up wave.”
Fox started his second career after retiring as senior pastor from First Baptist Church of Damascus, Md., a flock he shepherded for 18 years.
During that time, the Maryland Legislature and governor recognized Fox for organizing the Teen Club at John T. Baker Middle School. The program was an outreach to at-risk students. Fox found his calling as a mentor.
He wanted to continue working with students on character building when he moved to Van Wyck in 2001.
“When I retired, I didn’t want to stop doing something,” Fox said. “I wanted to do something where I could relate to students.”
Fox has strong ties to Indian Land. He graduated from the high school in 1957. He is the voice of the Warriors during football games. He also serves as chairman on the Outstanding Young Citizen selection committee for the Van Wyck Community Development Club.
Fox set out to be a good role model and mentor to his bus riders. Children were greeted with excitement in the morning and left the bus with a happy goodbye. He asked them to call him “Mr. Fox.” He knew all their names and accomplishments. Most did not know he was a pastor.
“I just love the children,” Fox said.