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

Just Posted

Shuswap Immigrant Services Society plans to hold a vigil on Friday, June 25 at 8 p.m. to honour the victims of what officials are calling a terrorist attack on five Muslims in London, Ont. (File photo)
Salmon Arm council holds minute of silence to honour victims of Ontario attack

Shuswap Immigrant Services Society plans vigil for Muslim family on June 25, 8 p.m. at McGuire Lake

A first-dose mobile vaccination clinic is being held on Tuesday, June 15 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Salmon Arm fairgrounds, west entrance across from spray park. (Interior Health image)
Location for Salmon Arm’s June 15 COVID-19 mobile vaccine clinic changes slightly

Immunization clinic still at fairgrounds but people attending asked to use different entrance

Felix Haase and Jayme Saretzky staff a pop-up booth to support the Salmon Arm Pride Project on the patio of the newly reopened Wild Craft Mercantile at 121 Shuswap St. on Saturday, June 12, 2021. (Martha Wickett - Salmon Arm Observer)
Wild Craft Mercantile in Salmon Arm holds grand reopening, celebrates Pride month

Store moves from Lakeshore to Shuswap, demonstrates support for Pride project

Tim Gibson joined the Shuswap Children’s Association on June 14, 2021. He is taking over the executive director position as June Stewart is retiring on June 30, 2021. (File photo)
New executive director joins Shuswap Children’s Association

Outgoing executive director June Stewart to retire on June 30, 2021

A City of Salmon Arm vacuum truck cleans out the city storm drain on Hudson Avenue in Salmon Arm Monday morning, June 14 after a crane truck blew a hydraulic line, spewing oil onto the road. (Martha Wickett - Salmon Arm Observer)
Fire trucks called to small oil spill in Salmon Arm

Traffic delayed on Hudson Avenue Monday morning after crane truck blows hydraulic line

People watch a car burn during a riot following game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in downtown Vancouver, B.C., in this June 15, 2011 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Howe
10 years ago: Where were you during the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots?

Smashed-in storefronts, looting, garbage can fires and overturned cars some of the damage remembered today

Lyndsay Fillier and Braden Taylor have been living the van life for four years and they've detailed the first year of their adventures in a new book. (Twila Amato/Black Press Media)
VIDEO: Okanagan couple details first year of van life in new book

Lyndsay Fillier and Braden Taylor have been living the van life for four years

The cannabis dispensary store, located at 1024 Clark Drive in East Vancouver. (Instagram/Budwayonclark)
Vancouver pot shop owner ordered to pay $40K for copying Subway

Store’s mascot is a red-eyed, cannabis-filled smoking sandwich

A young child was taken to hospital after being struck by a vehicle on 30th Avenue in Vernon Friday, June 11, 2021. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
Child OK after being hit by car in Vernon

Father says daughter was back home by supper time

A health-care worker holds up a sign signalling she needs more COVID-19 vaccines at the ‘hockey hub’ mass vaccination facility at the CAA Centre during the COVID-19 pandemic in Brampton, Ont., on Friday, June 4, 2021. This NHL-sized hockey rink is one of CanadaÕs largest vaccination centres. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
‘Vaxxed to the max’: Feds launch Ask an Expert campaign to encourage COVID shots

Survey shows that confidence in vaccines has risen this spring

Port Alberni court house (Alberni Valley News)
Inquest set into 2016 death of B.C. teen after a day spent in police custody

18-year-old Jocelyn George died of heart failure in hospital after spending time in jail cell

Children’s shoes and flowers are shown after being placed outside the Ontario legislature in Toronto on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Ontario commits $10 million to investigate burial sites at residential schools

Truth and Reconciliation Commission identified 12 locations of unmarked burial sites in Ontario

Two hundred and fifteen lights are placed on the lawn outside the Residential School in Kamloops, B.C., Saturday, June, 13, 2021. The remains of 215 children were discovered buried near the former Kamloops Indian Residential School earlier this month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Days after Kamloops remains discovery, Tk’emlups families gather to unite, move ahead

‘We have to work together because this is going to be setting a precedent for the rest of the country’

In this Saturday, May 29, 2021, file photo, people crowd the Santa Monica Pier in Santa Monica, Calif. California, the first state in America to put in place a coronavirus lockdown, is now turning a page on the pandemic. Most of California’s coronavirus restrictions will disappear Tuesday, June 15, 2021. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)
With COVID tamed, it’s a ‘grand reopening’ in California

No more state rules on social distancing, no more limits on capacity, no more mandatory masks

Most Read