Longtime Lake Superior district school bus driver to retire
After 50 years of shuffling generations of Two Harbors kids to and from school, Dennis Prestidge is parking his bus for good.
Prestidge, 75, will retire this fall after celebrating 50 years with the district this month. It all began when a friend suggested he look into working as a bus driver. Prestidge took the certification tests and was hired in the 1960s.
"I've always liked running some kind of equipment," Prestidge said.
His first experience on an Lake Superior school district bus was in high school -- his family moved from Mora to Silver Bay when Prestidge was a junior. At the time, Silver Bay didn't have its own school, so Prestidge rode the bus between Two Harbors every day.
Now, he's a familiar face for many bus-riding kids in the district. He has worked regularly for the past five decades, sometimes dropping to part-time status while holding down other jobs. He operated heavy equipment at Reserve Mining in Silver Bay for 30 years, doing shift work and driving a bus when he could. He also drove trucks for Ready Mix Concrete in Two Harbors for a time.
The motor-minded Prestidge even drives in his down time -- on days off, he can often be found on one of his many tractors -- tooling around his property just outside of Two Harbors.
These days, he wakes up at 4 a.m. and heads to the garage in Two Harbors.
At 5:20 a.m. he departs for Toimi for the first run of the day, returning about 8 a.m. to spend the morning shuttling preschoolers around town. By the time he completes his afternoon route and drops the kids off at their stops, he has racked up close to 200 miles.
Over the course of his career, Prestidge estimates that he has driven about a million miles for the school district. He's seen a lot of sunrises and weathered many snowstorms during that time, driving his regular daily route and taking kids to and from extracurricular activities like sporting or cultural events.
"It's been a good job. I do like the kids ... most of the time," he said with a laugh.
Bob Cox, the mechanic at the bus garage, has worked with Prestidge for more than 20 years. At the garage on one recent morning, the two were badgering each other mercilessly. Cox begrudgingly admitted he will miss Prestidge.
"We kind of tease each other and we keep a running banter," Cox said. "He's conscientious and we just look out for each other."
Prestidge said he isn't ready to give up the repartee, either; when he retires this fall, he said he will still visit the garage.
"I'll still come down and B.S. with the troops," he said.
Beyond that, Prestidge has plenty to keep him busy in retirement. During the summer he'll make hay and work on his tractors. He and his wife, Mary, have eight kids, 32 grandkids and 18 great-grandkids between them, and he said he's looking forward to spending more time with the entire brood.
After this long, cold winter, Prestidge said that he and Mary hope to spend some time in a warmer climate next year, but he added that he'll miss the work that has been his constant for a half-century.
"I'll miss the kids and getting up in the morning and going for a ride," he said.