By Tina Comeau
When Rosa Hattie stepped into one of Gary Hudson’s vans 18 years ago as his first passenger, neither one of them knew then that they were in for the ride of their lives.
But this was evident when Hudson dropped off the 89-year-old senior at her Murphy Avenue doorstop on April 30. The moment was laced with appreciation and sadness for them, and others, in knowing that their rides had come to an end.
Fittingly, Hudson presented a bouquet of roses to Hattie as he thanked her for her years of loyalty and friendship. Roses for a Rosa, he told her, before the two embraced. (You can view a video here of their last ride together.)
Wednesday, April 30 was the last day of service for Hut’s Transit. In March, Hudson announced that financially he couldn’t afford to keep the service operating any longer. Hut’s Transit was getting an annual subsidy of $60,000 from the Town of Yarmouth, but Hudson and his wife found themselves constantly having to dip into their savings and retirement fund to keep the service going.
Hudson said the decision to end the transit service was one of the hardest decisions he has made in his life.
And it isn’t any easier for the passengers who have depended on Hut’s Transit to take them to the places they needed, and wanted, to be at.
Passenger Reya Doucette wiped away tears on the final day of the service as she spoke about how important the service has been for the community. For seniors, she said, the transit system was their social outlet.
“It is heartbreaking,” she said, adding that were it not for Hut’s Transit she may never have graduated from an educational program she pursued, as she wouldn’t have always had the means to travel to class.
She said a transit service is very important.
“We definitely need it. The people who don’t have family and friends, how are they going to get around? The seniors are going to get cooped up in a tiny apartment,” she said.
When it came to transporting people around Yarmouth, Hut’s Transit, and Hudson himself, provided more than just a mode of transportation. Hattie, who traveled on Hut’s Transit nearly every day for the past 18 years, said Hudson and the other drivers truly cared about their passengers. Hudson would give them gifts on holidays. He would check up on their well-being. He would carry their parcels to their front doors.
He was more than a driver, she said.
He was a friend. He was family.
And the passengers he transported around Yarmouth became a family too, said Hattie.
“I have met so many people over the years,” she said. “To me it’s like we’re being torn apart. We were like a chain. The chain is broken, and we’re all broken hearted.”
Without a transit service yet in the wings to pick up where Hut’s Transit is leaving off, Hattie said she also feels that the seniors are being let down by the town.
Hudson said he was approached by the town on April 24 to extend his service for another three months. But he said financially the town could not offer him what it would have cost the keep the service running, even for just this little while longer.
The town will be looking at transit options.
Hudson said emotionally the final days of the service were hard ones to get through. He added that when it comes to offering a transit service it isn’t just about driving people from Point A to Point B.
“We need to help them get on and off the bus. We need to help them with their parcels if they need it. We need to take them where they want to go, and we need to listen to them,” he said, adding he is grateful to his passengers.
“These people have taught me what community is all about and what family and relationships are about because I’ve forged more relationships on this bus in the past 18 years than I would have anywhere else in the world,” said Hudson. “It’s been an absolutely wonderful experience. It’s not a bus. It’s a family.”