They met him because he drove a school bus, but they remember Gary Garafola as a "larger-than-life" legend whose impression lasts a lot longer than the few minutes in which he entered their lives each school day.
Garafola, or “Mr. G.” as he was known to the students and parents along his bus route, died last month after being struck by a car on Sept. 22 while walking his dog in his hometown of Townsend. In the years prior to his death, Garafola worked as a school bus driver—bus #33—and also taught driver’s education classes in town through Concord-Carlisle Community Education.
His job was to drive students to and from school every day. And he did it with style. So much so that Mr. G made such an impression that parents along his route have set up a Give Forward fundraising page to “support Mr. G's family and help his two youngest children finish college.” After a Sunday night launch, the fledgling page had more than $2,000 in donations by early Monday afternoon.
“Mr. G was full of joy,” the fundraising description says. “He had an enormous love of life, was deeply devoted to his family, and had a true passion for working with children and helping others. Knowing him was an honor, a gift, an adventure, a joy, and a ton of fun. He will be deeply missed.”
According to Molly Constable, the parent who set up the page, this fundraising effort is a way to say “Thank You” to the family of a man whose presence made it a little bit easier to send young children off to school.
“He was this huge, larger-than-life force,” said Constable, whose son was a second-grader on his third year aboard Garafola’s bus, “People like that are rare.”
With his crazy hats, Questions of the Day, and willingness to circle back on a route to pick up a student or return a backpack, Garafola, went above and beyond the call of duty, according to parents. He made a lasting impression and helped young parents feel at ease sending their children to school even when it’s for the first time. By starting and supporting the fundraising page, parents said they feel like it’s a way to show gratitude for the man who helped them more than he knew.
“We were so lucky that he chose to be a bus driver,” said Constable. “People want to do something, and this is a way to say ‘Thank You’ to Mr. G. and his family.”
Anyone interested in supporting The Garafola Family through this fundraising effort can head over to http://www.giveforward.com/mrgbus33.