The Smile of a Bus Driver

The Smile of a Bus Driver
Robert Bergman '93

Charles "Chuck" Allen was a retired respiratory therapist who served De Smet Jesuit as a bus driver in recent years. He was also a deacon for Saints Teresa and Bridget Catholic Church, and, most importantly, he was a beloved husband, father, and grandfather. He passed away on May 22, 2022.


For some of our students, Chuck Allen was the first smiling face they saw every day of the school year. Each morning he would ask them how they were feeling, and every afternoon he asked them how their day went.  

How do I know this? Chuck was my friend.

I’ve known him and his family since I was four years old. Chuck’s kids went to school with my brother and me. Our parents became friends, and in a surprising and wonderful way, Chuck and Debbie Allen became my friends, too. I don’t know why, but they both put up with my snot-nosed, smart-mouthed remarks, corrected me when I made very big and very little mistakes, and always treated me with care and respect. In many ways, they became those respected adults that could also joke around with me.

When I first saw Chuck driving our bus, I felt so happy for our students and myself. I knew that I could talk to Chuck daily and feel good about what I was doing with my life. We would talk about how our families were, and he asked real questions about my life and my family, not just chit-chat. I found out how proud he was of his sons. I had not seen his sons in many years but felt like I knew every bit about them because of how Chuck spoke about them. It was the same with his grandchildren. He told me all their successes and failures and how they would always bounce back from their mistakes, something he had encouraged in my brother and me.  

I loved when colleagues would ask how I knew the bus driver. I would tell stories about my childhood and how Chuck played a huge role in my life.

He shared a joke and smile every morning and afternoon; how could I not look forward to seeing him every day?

And that’s what he brought to our students; he cared. He is one of the few people I’ve known in life who truly cared about all the people around him. Even his criticisms were ones of encouragement; he wanted everyone to be their best selves, and he preached it from the basketball court where he refereed for years to the pulpit where he helped lead his parish as a deacon.  

At my parents’ 50th anniversary party, I felt so proud to introduce my children to Chuck and Debbie. I wanted my kids to know the wonderful people that I’ve had in my life who helped shape me, and they treated my children the same way they treated me, with loving respect and twinkles in their eyes.

I’ve known a few fine gentlemen in my life, and Chuck Allen was at the top of that list. He was one of a kind, and he will be missed. I will miss my friend.

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