Memorial created in St. Thomas, Ont. for those who carry our 'most precious' cargo

A memorial garden has been created in the region to remember school bus drivers, who have passed on.

Located outside the offices of First Student Canada in St. Thomas, the temporary memorial, soon to be replaced with a permanent one, already draws emotion.

Adorned by a tribute stone etched with a school bus, the memorial features granite tiles with nine names of drivers who’ve passed away.

All of them loved their job as much as the memorial’s creator Will Alden.

A school bus driver for four years, he defines his boss’s definition of the “right” person for the job. A job upended by COVID-19.

“I miss the kids with all the COVID going on. I really enjoy it,” Alden tells CTV News.

But while school buses sat idle, Alden and a colleague took to creating what was to be a simple garden.

As he worked to place plants, the long-time Royal Canadian Legion member says the idea to create a memorial garden popped into his head.

He went to his boss, Kevin Murray, a veteran of the Canadian Forces, and the two men quickly went ahead with Alden’s plan. It's funded directly by First Student Canada.

School bus driver memorial in St. Thomas, Ont. on July 6, 2021. (Sean Irvine/CTV London)

The project began by asking 101 school bus drivers and their support staff to think of the names of every driver who has passed away while they’ve been working.

Branch manager Kevin Murray says the list currently stretches back a decade, with a new name, unfortunately, being added just days after the unveiling.

“We just lost one last week she was 43. She drove for us for us for five years.”

Each painful Loss demonstrates how each stone in the garden has a face attached to it.

A face, young students, their parents, and most especially colleagues remember. For Murray, two names that stick out are Wilson Faulkner, who died in 2018, and Mike Nutkins, who died in 2020.

“I remember them fondly. Wilson, was a great advisor, a wonderful person to talk to. Mike, when he passed away, he was a guy who would anything for you. He was always in a great mood and happy.”

Alden echoes those reflections.

“They meant a lot to everybody here. There is not a bad thing I’ve heard about either two of those guys.”

But both men believe there are other bus drivers in Ontario, Canada and globally deserving of recognition. After all, as Murray puts it, “it takes a certain, kind person to drive a school bus.”

That’s why he's hopeful the memorial gardens will catch on. “I think other bus companies will do the same thing. I am hoping they will.”

Alden hopes so too.

“This is really touching home for everyone here.”