If it’s after lunch and it’s a school day, everyone at Suwannee Valley Nursing Home knows where to find residents Kenneth Neff and Eileen Thompson.
The two are core members of a devoted group of bus watchers who wave to drivers departing a depot directly across the street from the facility. Come 2:15 each afternoon, Suwannee’s front porch is packed with six to 12 residents, all of them smiling or cheering as they sit under large outdoor fans waiting for the big yellow buses to roll up the opposing driveway and take children home for the day.
“It’s so neat because when they drive up and then turn right to head to the schools, we can see them perfectly from where they sit,” Activities Director Kim Williamson told McKnight’s. “They’re looking right back at them, and they’re waving and honking.”
While the residents and the drivers kept up their mini long-distance relationship during the school year, they were finally able to meet in person on the last day of school earlier this month. The Hamilton County School District arranged a special visit with plenty of handshakes and a couple of driving-themed T-shirts for their biggest fans.
For Thompson, a one-time bus driver herself, there was a shirt proclaiming a long walk home for those who weren’t nice to the driver; and for Neff, one that read, “Just Drive It.”
Though the drivers and residents at the 60-bed Suwannee facility have always waved to one another, Williamson said this year’s visit was an extra special touch.
“It’s quick, and we’re just 100 yards away, maybe a football field,” she said. “But they love it. It’s their little afternoon entertainment…. For them to come over and shake hands (with the residents), it meant a lot.”