GRAND MEADOW, Minn. — Glen Davis so enjoyed driving school bus for Grand Meadow School District over the decades that he wanted to memorialize it.
Instead of photographs and mementos, Davis stipulated that after he died, he wanted to be buried in a casket painted like a Grand Meadow school bus.
On Saturday, Davis, 88, died.
Davis, a lifelong Grand Meadow resident, drove school bus for more than half a century and was known by thousands of Grand Meadow students as “Glennie.”
He started driving in 1949, the year of his high school graduation, at an age when the students he drove were his classmates and friends.
He drove continuously for the next 55 years until his 2005 retirement, when some of his student passengers were grandchildren of the students he once drove.
Davis was a farmer most of his life. He drove bus in the morning, then milked cows afterward.
“He just enjoyed the kids and driving the bus so much,” said his daughter, Lisa Hodge.
“Oh, I loved it,” Davis said five years ago in a Jan. 31, 2015, Rochester Post Bulletin article, describing the moment he first laid eyes on the casket.
“My family was a little leery of it, it being a little bit personal,” he said.
That story was one of the top 10 Post Bulletin stories viewed online in 2015. Hodge said that whenever she and her dad were with people, Davis would ask her to pull up the Post Bulletin photo on her phone to show others “because he was so proud of it.”
While his family and adult children’s initial response was one of uncertainty, they eventually came around to seeing it as Davis did — an expression of his personality and his love of the profession.
The idea of the “bus casket” was first planted in Davis’ mind during a conversation he had with one of his sons-in-law, Steve Durst, said Steve’s wife, Dawn Durst.
At the time, Steve Durst was the owner of a graphic design business. He told Davis about a picture he had seen in a design magazine of a “school bus casket.” From that time onward, Davis was smitten with the idea.
“It never left his mind,” Dawn Durst said.
The original idea was to “wrap” the casket. Jim Hindt, owner of Hindt Funeral Home and a family friend, provided a casket for Steve Durst to work on. But the idea proved unworkable and the project was eventually abandoned.
But unbeknownst to Davis, Hindt began to work on the project himself.
Instead of using a wrap, he decorated it with paint. When Davis was presented with the final product, he was overwhelmed. Flourishes included a red stop sign set against the yellow-orange finish and the No. 3 painted on the side, the number of the first bus Davis drove.
Hindt had his own reasons for wanting to see the project come to fruition. He saw the bus as a gift of gratitude to Davis and his family. Several years prior, Hindt’s daughter, Madison, had been diagnosed with cancer when she was a toddler.
Hindt never forgot how kind and comforting Davis and his family were to his family. He wanted to repay their kindness, and a custom-painted bus was his way of showing his gratitude. Madison is cancer-free and healthy.
Davis’ funeral is set for 10:30 a.m. Friday at St. Finbarr Catholic Church in Grand Meadow. It will be, like many funerals, a sad and somber affair. But Hodge expects the mood will be lightened and a little less sad by the sight of the school bus at the front of the church.
“He really got a kick out of it,” Hodge said. “It’s what he loved about life.”