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HOMETOWN HERO: Bethel Wall, 50 Years Behind the Wheel

PROCTORVILLE, Ohio (WSAZ) -- The family of the man behind the wheel of bus number 40 will tell you that he always wears overalls, he is an honest man and one of few words.

But, if you talk to Bethel Wall for a just a minute, he has plenty to say about the students who've been on his school bus for the last 50 years. They not only filled the seats, they've filled his heart.

He retired once. It only took three weeks for him to miss the kids.

"The kids had gotten a hold of me," Wall explained. "More than I realized."

There is no telling how many miles he's logged on the roads of southeast Ohio -- first for Symmes Valley and for the last five at Fairland.

He hates that he doesn't know how many children he's hauled on his school bus, but he does knows what he said to each one.

"Good morning. And when I pull in at the school I say, 'Have a great day.' Whether that has had any effect on them or not, I don't know. But it helps me."

Bethel has driven generations of families to school -- like Ed Berry, his daughter Amanda, and his granddaughter.

"(In) 1965 my mom and dad moved to the farm," Ed Berry said. "They took us all to Sunday school on Sunday morning. He (Bethel) was the Sunday school teacher. School started on Monday, the door come open (on the bus), he was the driver."

Sgt. Chris Smith with the Ironton Post of the Ohio Highway Patrol awarded Wall with a certificate for 50 years of safe driving. Smith said it was a first.

In addition to being a farmer and waking up at quarter-after-three each morning to milk the cows, he is also a pastor. He wears his overalls to preach.

Wall is supposed to retire at the end of this school year -- "supposed to" being the key phrase.

"I told momma the morning I got up and didn't want to be with the kids, I would call them and tell them to get them a driver. As of now, I haven't called," he laughed, "so the jury is still out."

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