Tom Baaske: Good Wheel Ambassador

SANDUSKY Legends come in all shapes and sizes. Sandusky Schools' just so happens to be in the form o
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010

SANDUSKY

Legends come in all shapes and sizes. Sandusky Schools' just so happens to be in the form of Thomas Baaske.

"Forty-one years as a bus driver," superintendent Bill Pahl said. "He's a legend."

Baaske, who will retire Aug. 1, started driving for the school system around the time they first began transporting students with their own buses, in August of 1967.

"There were only six buses," he said, shaking his head. "We didn't have two-way radios back then. You didn't know if you missed a kid until you got back here and the supervisor let you know. Now you know the minute you pass the next street."

Heidi Reidel, 46, remembers riding Baaske's bus with her brother Karl and sister Tanya (Weston).

"We'd always be like 'Oh man, we got Tom, he's the cool bus driver,' and our friends would say, 'You're lucky, you got Tom as a bus driver," she said chuckling. "Every morning you'd get on the bus, it would be, 'Good morning, good morning.' It was always a positive experience. He hasn't changed at all. It's a great fit for him to be a bus driver because he's always loved the kids."

"You can tell as soon as a kid gets on what kind of mood he's in," Baaske said. "I say good morning to them no matter if they talk back or not, and some don't."

He started driving part-time while working at Sandusky International.

"I enjoy driving," he said. "I enjoyed the students and of course the Sandusky school system has always paid drivers well, in my opinion. It helped get my four daughters to college."

After retiring from Sandusky International, Baaske started driving the special-needs routes, which are generally smoother routes, with the help of an aide.

"How lucky the special-needs kids are to have him," Reidel said. "They couldn't ask for someone to be more caring and so considerate of their needs. He always keeps in contact with them and their parents. Special-needs drivers are really special on their own, Tom is above and beyond."

Transportation supervisor Ted Peters said he, too, was bused by Baaske.

"It's kind of unique. He was my driver when I was younger," Peters said. "He drove the sports teams to games. He's always really liked watching the games, he's a sports fanatic."

Peters said Baaske is one of the first at work in the morning and it's not uncommon to see him washing the buses, shoveling snow and helping other drivers with their pre-trips--checking mirrors, lights and tapping on tires.

"I don't know how he's going to retire. He's too active," Peters said in admiration. "He's not going to be able to sit still. All I can say is wow. Thomas Baaske, the man, the myth, the legend."

Baaske said he didn't start driving with the intention to hit 41 years, but it's a hobby that just stuck with him.

"I have kids I see different places, at the mall or around town and the children will come up and put their arms around you, and say, 'You were my bus driver,'" he said. "I didn't start driving to break any records. I kept driving because it was something to do. It got me out of bed in the morning."