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On Thursday night, Gail Baker walked out of the back door of the Wilson County Schools bus garage, expecting to walk into the back door of school bus 222, walk up its narrow aisle and renew her wedding vows with husband, Wayne.
Instead, Bus 222 pulled away, revealing a red, white and blue special event Thomas-Built bus, leaving Baker in tears.
Baker worked for Wilson County Schools as its transportation coordinator for 25 years, retired and returned seven years ago to work part-time in the same office. So when she went to plan her 50th wedding anniversary party and vow renewal, it didn’t take her long to decide where it should be held.
“When I was planning the renewing of vows, I had considered having the ceremony at a friend’s house,” Baker said, “but then (bus shop foreman)Bobby (Carter) said, ‘Well, you spend your life at the bus garage, why not just do it here?’ So I figured we’d use a yellow bus here.
“When I saw the (Thomas training) bus, I was blown away because I never thought this could ever be done,” Baker continued. “I wanted it done for my husband because he’s a retired Vietnam veteran. It would be representing my work with buses, and the colors on the bus represent the Air Force.”
Carter said the vow renewal planning began about three weeks ago, but Baker had asked about using the Thomas training bus long before that.
“Gail asked about the bus about two or three months ago when she saw the bus in a picture and asked about using it,” Carter said, “but then didn’t say anything else about it. So I called Phil Loflin with the Carolina-Thomas bus dealership in Greensboro, and he said, ‘Sure. We can work something out.’ So he drove that bus all the way down here tonight.”
Loflin is the Thomas-Built bus representative for this area of North Carolina and said the red, white and blue bus was set up for training, promotional events and parades. The bus is set it up like a training area and used mostly by technicians.
“Gail is a sweet lady, and we think the world of her,” Loflin said.
Performing the renewal of vows ceremony was William D. Horne, a minister who has also driven school buses for Wilson County Schools for nearly 30 years, 28 of those years driving for Beddingfield High School.
“Little Mama (Gail) came to me saying she wanted to renew her vows, and she knew I was a pastor of a church, so she asked me if I would officiate, and I told her I’d be more than glad to do it,” Horne said. “It’s an honor for me to do it. As a matter of fact, I just got off my bus route. I brought my robe and everything else I needed to work with me today.”
The service was held in the tulle-decorated bus in front of family and friends, and a reception followed in the bus garage. The tables were decorated with photos of the couple, candles and, naturally, miniature school buses.
“When you see somebody so dedicated to what they do for so many years, serving the people, serving the county, and serving the students, you just want to do everything you can to make this a special moment,” said Kelly Carter, wife of Bobby Carter and assistant principal at Beddingfield High School.