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44 years is enough driving school bus
Joyce Boxley has always treated the people in her care like members of her family, whether she was driving them to school or changing the sheets on their beds.
“She is such a wonderful person,” said Becky Glazebrook, who hired Boxley as a domestic worker 25 years ago and considers her “more like family than employee.”
“She’s just one of those people you can’t say enough about,” Glazebrook said. “She has been there for me, through thick and thin.”
Boxley also drove a school bus for 44 years until she recently decided it was time to turn in the keys. Friends and family members surprised her with a retirement party in June at the King George Citizens Center, and Boxley is still reveling in the moment.
When she’s not cleaning bathrooms or washing clothes at one of the five homes where she works—or shuttling around her nine grandchildren and three great-grandchildren—she rereads the cards and letters from former students and co-workers.
“It makes me feel so good and loved and everything,” she said.
Others say that’s just the kind of impact Joyce “Blondina” Brown Boxley has had on them over the decades.
STILL CARING FOR OTHERS
A lifelong resident of King George, Boxley started cleaning houses with her mother as soon as she was old enough to handle a dust rag. She planned to marry a rich man, but said she “got a good one instead.”
She and William Earl Boxley had six children together, five girls and one boy.
Her husband died 18 years ago. He was a construction worker and had a heart attack on the way home from work.
Joyce Boxley has stayed in the same small house on Caledon Road where her five girls shared a bedroom, and the family got by with one bathroom.
Boxley gave her age—then told a reporter she’d better not publish it. Even though she’s old enough to be fully retired, Boxley doesn’t plan to give up her domestic jobs.
“Everybody said, ‘Don’t work yourself to death,’ but I’ve been with these people so long, it’s like I’m at home,” she said. “I’m probably older than all of them, but I’ll still take care of them.”
‘SHE WAS THE BEST’
Boxley said she isn’t exactly sure what Facebook is, but knows the social network was filled with comments about her retirement.
Robbin Jett, the best friend of Boxley’s youngest daughter, Carol Harrison, asked people who remembered riding with Boxley to post their thoughts.
Nikki Lewis, who was a VanDeWeert before she married and moved to South Carolina, remembered when Boxley would baby-sit her and her friend Jami before school. She would bring the girls back to her house and let them ride her grandchildren’s Hot Wheels before it was time to get on the bus.
“She would feed us peanut-butter crackers and spoil us as if we were her own,” Lewis wrote in an email. “She was the best.”
Lewis rode with Boxley 25 years ago. Justin Bridges goes back even further, to 1980. “What a great woman,” he wrote. “Love her!”
Jett said Boxley drove the bus for so long, she carried not one or two, but three generations of the same families to school.
Boxley, who said she’ll miss her “little children,” had few discipline problems. She can remember only one time she had to turn the bus around and go back to school when kids wouldn’t stop fighting.
At the beginning of each year, she introduced herself and told her riders she’d respect them and expected them to respect her. If they didn’t, she would try to resolve the problem with their parents.
She believed that kicking a child off the bus was a bigger punishment for adults than children, so she tried to avoid the measure.
But she didn’t hesitate to go toe-to-toe with adults if a child’s safety was at stake.
Once, she wouldn’t drop off a kindergartner because it looked like no one was at home. She contacted her supervisor, who alerted the parents, and an angry father was waiting to get his child off the bus.
He spoke harshly and grabbed the child. Boxley told him if he touched the girl again, he’d have to contend with her.
“I’d tear his head up if he hurt that child,” Boxley said.
WON’T STOP MOVING
Ray Newton, the transportation director for King George schools, said he would have been happy for Boxley to keep driving for years to come.
“She’s awesome, always friendly and willing to help in any way she could,” he said.
Boxley paid off a lot of her bills and had some work done around the house before she said goodbye to her bus income.
She hopes to get to some of those projects she’s always wanted to do, such as putting new seat cushions on chairs. She wasn’t able to fit those chores into the schedule when she had to get up at 4:30 in the morning to do the safety checks on the bus.
Boxley won’t have to climb on a chair to check the oil in the bus anymore—she couldn’t reach otherwise—but she vows she won’t be one of those people who stops moving and gets, as she called it, fat and unhappy.
“A lot of people say they wish they hadn’t retired, and I don’t want to say that,” Boxley said. “I think I’d go crazy sitting here every day.”
The mere thought of it made her cringe.
“Lord have mercy,” she said.
Cathy Dyson: 540/374-5425