Warsaw Bus Driver Puts It In Park After 46 Years Behind The Wheel


Up before the sun rose, Warsaw R-9 School District bus driver J. D. Findley took his last drive as a school bus driver on May 16 with his usual load of children from ages 5 to 18. A bus driver for Warsaw R-9 for 46 years, Findley delivered school children safely to and from school from the southern part of the district to South Elementary and on to Warsaw High School.

“In all those years, I never had an accident,” said Findley. “I knocked over a mailbox once and hit a gate, but there was never a time when the children were in any danger.”

Working as a bus driver came naturally to Findley as his mother and father both hauled children to school for many years.

“When the one room schools were consolidated and R-6 was formed in 1952, the new district didn’t have any buses so my mother and dad bought a 1952 Ford station wagon and hauled children from Hastain and Forthview to R-6,” said Findley.

Four generations of the Findley family graduated from Warsaw. J.D.'s grandmother, Myrtle Pryor Buckley, 1913; his mother Betty Buckley Findley in 1939, J.D. in 1960 and his children Raymond, ’81; Regina, ’89; Jacinda, ’91; and Jason, ‘93. His four children all rode with their dad to school.

“We were on that bus by 6:30 AM and didn’t start school until 8:00 AM,” said Gina.

After graduating from WHS in 1960, Findley moved to Kansas City where he worked at the Ford plant for 12 years. Findley was married and started his family but the Ozarks called him home and he returned to Benton County with his family and started working at the Warsaw Meat Processing Plant for 20 years until its closure.

When he wasn’t working at the processing plant, he drove the bus. Starting in 1978, Findley purchased a bus and took over the route driven previously by Earl Spry and then Lavoyd Dodd. At that time, bus drivers were contracted and the bus belonged to the driver. The school entered a contract with the drivers and paid them accordingly. Ten years ago, the school districts started purchasing all the buses and hiring drivers.

From that time until 2024, Findley was on the job morning and afternoon. There were a few times that Findley was worried that he couldn’t make it.

“Turkey Creek Hill was always a problem,” said Findley. “On one afternoon run, I was afraid I wasn’t going to make it. We had received several inches of snow and I was approaching Turkey Creek Hill so I was trying to get up some speed to make it to the top. I came to the bottom of the hill and there was a car sitting sideways on the hill. The car continued to slide and I was trying to avoid it because there is nowhere to go once you start up that hill. Luckily, I inched the way up the snow-covered hill and I managed to get the kids home, but I was worried. No one was hurt on the bus or in the car, but it was scary. I tried to get MoDOT to put guard rails on that hill but I wasn’t able to convince them the rails were needed.”

Findley also hauled several generations of different families in the Edwards area.

“Matthew, Michael and Ramie Henderson all rode my bus and then I hauled their children as well,” said Findley.

Maintaining discipline is part of the bus driver’s job and Findley approached it with a no-nonsense attitude.

“I assigned seats to my riders and if they had problems with the riders around them, I would make them change seats,” explained Findley.

School Board member Amie Breshears first met Findley as a student riding his bus.

"When he said that he ran a tight ship, he wasn’t kidding. I was a little bit scared of him actually,” said Breshears.

She said people like Findley make the Warsaw School District what it is.

"As we get older, our roles might change, but we still really care about the kids and making a great school for them,” said Breshears.

While many people take up fishing or some other recreational sport, Findley said he wasn’t interested.

“I like to work,” Findley said. “I’ve worked all my life. When I was a kid, my parents milked cows and raised chickens. People coming down for the weekend at the lake would stop to buy milk and chickens from my parents. In the late 50s, we were milking 45 cows a day and if my parents needed to go somewhere, they would leave me when I was only 13 years old to milk the cows. I really don’t have any hobbies, instead I just work.”

Findley did comment that he had a sideline welding business and that he had worked for several farmers welding gates and fences.

“I might do a little welding again now that I am no longer driving the bus,” said Findley.

Findley and his wife Kathryn are grandparents to 20 grandchildren and seven great grandchildren.

“I appreciate the presentations from the Warsaw R-9 School Board, the Missouri Highway Patrol, and Representative Rodger Reedy,” said Findley. “The cards and gifts from the kids on my route as well as the teachers and the bus drivers were very much appreciated. I’ll be around when the drivers get together in the bus barn when school starts again.”