His name was Robert Zabel, and he was the husband of a dear lady who is a friend and my high school drama & debate coach, and he drove our drama/debate team bus.
Mostly my memories of him are simply of his presence, quietly waiting in the background...his thereness. He drove the bus to our tournaments and contests; he shuttled us to hotels and kept us fed and watered. Good weather, bad weather, outrageously early mornings and very late nights, he got us where we needed to be and put up with a lot of shenanigans - well, you can imagine what a busload of drama/debate kids was like, especially coming home after 3 days of intense competition. The jocks had nothin' on us for rowdiness, we were just a lot funnier
Robert was patient and cheerful with us...he maybe barked at us once or twice over the years when we were really out of hand, but far less often than we probably deserved. Come to think of it, I'll bet he liked the early mornings on long trips because we would usually sleep for a few hours.
He was always there waiting patiently, and we always knew he would be. He would wait, and bring us home safely. Every time.
Robert had spent the last few years in some pain, I think - it seems as though every time the doctors could fix or control one thing, something else would happen and he was in decline. I can't speak for him, but perhaps it was some kind of a relief for him to let go of the pain and illness at last.
I haven't seen him in many years, but I feel his presence is still there waiting patiently, for his family, for those of us who knew him, to join him one day...and he will bring us home safely. One last time.
For the Zabel family, my heartfelt condolences. I share your sorrow.