School bus driver was in it for long haul
Name: Marian Darnell
Occupation: Retired school bus driver
Fast Fact: Marian Darnell drove a school bus for nearly 40 years despite completing a bachelor's degree in psychology.
Though her life could have taken her in many directions, with a big heart for children, Cy-Fair resident Marian Darnell found her calling as a school bus driver who, having just retired after nearly 40 years, holds the longest driving record in Cy-Fair transportation history.
Though an impressive record, Darnell is not letting it go to her head. "Yes, I have the longest driving record," she said, "but there's people close behind me."
Not bad for someone who was just following the off-hand advice of a friend.
"Back in '73," Darnell recounted, "I lived in Tower Oaks Plaza. A lady in my subdivision said she got started driving for Cy-Fair and said I should try and do that. 'Gosh,' I said, 'I never would have thought of that.'
"I went down and David Terry, director of transportation at the time, had me get on a bus and drive around the parking lot, and he said you're hired. Within two days, I took the driving test and passed, and the next thing I knew, I was driving. Of course, they don't do that anymore; they have special training now."
"I really enjoyed it. It was easy to me. Today it's just a little different because there's a little bit more traffic. I have driven all grades, but in recent years, high school and elementary."
The job worked well, allowing Darnell the flexibility she required while raising her own three girls, but as her children grew older, she began to consider other options. Setting her sights on becoming a clinical psychologist, she began attending Houston Community College.
In 1989, she graduated with a bachelor's in psychology from the University of Houston, but by this time, Darnell said she did not want to leave.
"Oh I think my husband thought I might go on to graduate school," Darnell said. Darnell's husband, Larry, added, "That never happened. She became very attached to her bus-driver friends at the Falcon Center, and she loved the kids -- her family away from home. Marian felt like this was her calling in life."
Known as "Mrs. D," Darnell, who shuttled children of all ages, agreed. "I enjoyed the job very much. I guess it was the challenge of working with the students. Some of them needed more guidance than others, but if you respected your students, that's what you got back in return. That was the real joy; the students were great."
When Darnell walked away from her bus for the last time on Feb. 16, a move prompted by health concerns, she did not leave her friends, and she did not slow down -- much.
She continues to meet with friends once a month and as for the rest, she said, "I love to garden, I walk almost every day, I visit with the neighbors, I'm active in my church, and on Thursday, I'm going to Paris.
"I'm going with my youngest daughter. It's a trip I've wanted to go on for many years. I've always enjoyed Impressionistic art, and I've always wanted to see Monet's 'Garden.' "
Julia Bishop Beautie is a freelance journalist. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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