Harry Ahola was awarded by BC Transit after 29 years of service as a bus driver in Salmon Arm. (Ihana Images)

Dedicated driver: Salmon Arm BC Transit employee earns lifetime achievement award

Harry Ahola says the people on the bus make his job rewarding

A long and exemplary career behind the wheel of a transit bus has earned Salmon Arm’s Harry Ahola special recognition.

The veteran bus driver was awarded 2020 transit superstar honours and the Mike Docherty Lifetime Achievement Award by BC Transit.

“It was a real shock; it’s like winning the lottery,” Ahola said of the award from the provincial transit service.

According to Ahola’s award citation from BC Transit, he is known for cheering up the streets of Salmon Arm with his ready grin seen through the bus’s windows. He was also awarded for his exemplary driving record and his skills as a HandyDART driver which, according to BC Transit, are the benchmark for new drivers to aspire to.

Ahola was the first Shuswap transit operator to get behind the wheel. His career began in 1991 driving on the initial Shuswap transit routes which he said would sometimes only see seven passengers board his bus in a day. Ahola said those buses now pick up as many as 200 people per day, but he is behind the wheel of a HandyDART instead of the regularly scheduled buses.

Read More: Demand continues to drive Okanagan real estate markets

Read More: Calls to Okanagan crisis line increase for those over 40

HandyDART buses offer door-to-door service for passengers with special needs, a task Ahola said he has really enjoyed over the past 16 years behind the wheel of one.

“When they’re sad they cry, when they’re happy they laugh, we could all learn something from that,” Ahola said of passengers who he drives to support programs daily.

The driver also had kind words about his senior passengers who often share interesting information about Salmon Arm’s past.

Read More: B.C.’s to begin counting mail-in ballots Friday, will take at least 3 days

Read More: Sorrento Remembrance Day ceremony pared down in response to COVID-19

In his time behind the wheel of a HandyDART in the Shuswap, Ahola said he has seen increasing demand for the service. He said they are now running two 20-seat buses, compared to the single seven-seater he drove at first.

HandyDART drivers do more than just drive. Ahola said he assists passengers who use wheelchairs and most of his day is spent taking people directly to medical and other appointments rather than driving a set route.

Following years of daily interactions with the public, Ahola said it becomes obvious that not every passenger is friendly, and an important skill for bus drivers is keeping their own emotions in check when things get heated. He said in most cases the unfriendly passengers are just having a bad day, and it is important to keep that in mind.

Overall, Ahola said it is the people on the bus that make his job rewarding enough to stay at it for 29 years.



jim.elliot@saobserver.net

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

BC Transit

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Auldin Maxwell stacks the 693rd block on the top of record-breaking Jenga tower on Nov. 29. (Submitted)
Salmon Arm boy rests world-record attempt on single Jenga brick

Auldin Maxwell, 12, is now officially a Guinness world record holder.

Terrance Josephson of the Princeton Posse, at left, and Tyson Conroy of the Summerland Steam clash during a Junior B hockey game at the Summerland Arena in the early spring of 2020. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
QUIZ: How much do you know about hockey?

Test your knowledge of Canada’s national winter sport

(Hal Brindley - Dreamstime)
Enderby farmers caught between coyotes and bylaw tickets

The Smith family is stuck in a Catch-22 between protecting their livestock and incurring noise complaints

Barley Station Brewpub’s owners Stu and Kathy Bradford and longtime head chef Wally Bonn celebrated 15 years in business on Saturday, Jan. 23. (Jim Elliot/Salmon Arm Observer)
Snapshot: Salmon Arm’s Barley Station Brewpub celebrates 15th year in business

The highwayside pub is lookign forward to the future.

The Salmon Arm Elks Lodge kept up their charitable giving despite COVID-19 restrictions by holding a successful 50/50 draw. (Jim Elliot-Salmon Arm Observer)
Salmon Arm Elks support charitable giving with succesful 50/50 draw

The winner of the draw took home over $4,000.

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders sits in on a COVID-19 briefing with Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, and Adrian Dix, B.C. minister of health. (Birinder Narang/Twitter)
PHOTOS: Bernie Sanders visits B.C. landmarks through the magic of photo editing

Residents jump on viral trend of photoshopping U.S. senator into images

A COVID-19 exposure has been confirmed at Black Mountain Elementary in Kelowna Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021. (Google Image)
Another COVID-19 exposure confirmed at Kelowna school

Interior Health confirmed an exposure at Black Mountain Elementary School Saturday

Members of BCEHS Station 343 in Lake Country receive a donation of treats and wine from the community in December. (Contributed)
‘Unexpected and heartwarming’: Okanagan community supports paramedics

Cards, discounts, treats, more given to Lake Country paramedics in sign of support

A 75-year-old aircraft has been languishing in a parking lot on the campus of the University of the Fraser Valley, but will soon be moved to the B.C. Aviation Museum. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Vintage military aircraft moving from Chilliwack to new home at B.C. Aviation Museum

The challenging move to Vancouver Island will be documented by Discovery Channel film crews

The North Okanagan Naturalists' Club completed its annual swan and eagle counts Sunday, Jan. 17, 2021. (Claude Rioux - NONC photo)
North Okanagan bird count shows decrease in swan and eagle numbers

Trumpeter swans were down 61 per cent from last year’s count; eagles down 14 per cent

Okanagan Indian Band Chief Byron Louis has served as the band’s chief since his first of six electoral wins in 1991. (File photo)
Okanagan Indian Band seeks nominations for upcoming election

A new OKIB chief and council will be elected March 30, 2021

Lake Country firefighters helped deliver a healthy newborn baby Thursday, Jan. 21, 2020. (Pixabay)
Lake Country firefighters help deliver baby boy

Firefighters from the Winfield hall assisted with the birth of a healthy newborn Thursday morning

A video posted to social media by Chilliwack resident Rob Iezzi shows a teenager getting kicked in the face after being approached by three suspects on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (YouTube/Rob i)
VIDEO: Security cameras capture ‘just one more assault’ near B.C. high school

Third high-school related assault captured by Chilliwack resident’s cameras since beginning of 2021

Skaha Middle School
Arrest made in indecent acts near South Okanagan schools

A 32-year-old man was arrested and released on strict conditions, say police

Most Read