Ann Reynolds driver rides off into retirement

Ann Reynolds stands by her rig, shortly before retiring as the Dillon city bus driver at the end of 2013. M.P. Regan photo

 

Ann Reynolds dropped off her last passenger on the last day of her job on the last day of 2013. And then, after more than two decades as Dillon’s city bus driver, she drove herself home to begin a retirement that will likely keep her even busier than her full and wide-ranging career did.

“It’s been a great 21 years of driving the bus—I couldn’t have asked for a better job,” said Reynolds, who started as Dillon’s city bus driver on February 1, 1992, under Mayor Jim Wilson, after almost three years working as the mayor’s secretary.

“The bus has been a great, great thing. It’s just amazing all the stories I’ve gotten from it over the years. I should have started writing a book 21 years ago. It would have been a bestseller,” laughed Reynolds, who said she will miss the friendships she forged with so many of her passengers over the years more than anything else.

“I became friends with a lot of my riders. Every Christmas, they’d each get a jar of my apple jelly. After they heard I was retiring, a lot of them kept saying, ‘who’s gonna make our apple jelly now?’” said Reynolds, who numbered a couple of centenarians among her regular riders when she retired.

“Ann has been very committed and dedicated to the residents of Bicentennial Apartments, and they will miss her greatly,” said Jim McIsaac, president of the board of Bicentennial Apartments, a senior housing complex in Dillon.

“Seniors are such great people, it’s just been wonderful to be able to serve them and get to know so many of them” said Reynolds.

“A lot of people liked to get on the bus and just ride with you. They wouldn’t get off. I had a lady on the other day who rode with me for hours. She didn’t have a car anymore, and she said she got to see parts of town on the bus that she hadn’t seen for a long time.”

While the local bus started as a service for just seniors, Reynolds played a key role in expanding it. Through writing grants and performing relentless outreach to individuals and organizations whom she felt the bus service could benefit, she helped grow Dillon’s bus service to one that anyone could ride from anywhere in Dillon to anywhere else in town without having to pay a fare, making it one of the only free municipal bus services in the country.

“I really loved working with her,” said Pam Mussard, a social work case manager at the local Community Health Center, where Reynolds dropped off and picked up hundreds of patients over the last decade who might have otherwise been unable to get to their medical appointments.

“Ann would not take ‘no’ for an answer if she didn’t have to, and that’s how she got things done,” said Mussard, who recalled the bus service starting to deliver patients to appointments in 2003 shortly after Reynolds got involved when she found out that transportation stood as a key obstacle between many ailing people in town and their ability to receive timely medical treatment.

“The bus service is something people have come to really appreciate in this community. It’s made a huge difference in a lot of people’s lives. Ann was always getting grants and pulling us all together. She was always trying to expand the hours and days the bus would operate,” added Mussard.

“I don’t know if a lot of people know what an integral part she played in it. All the people who have received rides over the years owe her a big debt of gratitude. She really went the extra distance.”

Reynolds figures she’s travelled over 100,000 miles in literal distance driving the city bus around Dillon over the past two decades.

Though she was involved in a number of other lines of work before climbing on board the Dillon city bus in 1992, Reynolds never strayed too far from Pony, where she was raised on five acres of land that have remained in her family for over a century.

Born in Whitehall in 1944, Reynolds said started helping her family earn money at an early age, out of necessity.

“My dad worked for a rancher all his life. We were poor,” recalled Reynolds.

“My brother Joe and I were six and seven when we moved up to the South Boulder out of Whitehall to help my dad with herding, and kept helping out there until I was 18. We spent summers on horseback herding cows,” said Reynolds, one of the last two students to graduate from Pony Grade School, before moving on to Harrison High School and then in 1962 to Butte Business College, where she earned a degree.

“I cooked for a rancher and his wife as teenager and fed guys stacking hay, who were doing it all by hand then. It was full meals, three times a day, and snacks twice a day. That’s how I earned my school money, how I bought my school clothes.”

Between graduating from Butte Business College and coming to work for the City of Dillon in 1989, Reynolds was employed in Safeway’s district office in Butte, starting in 1963, raised purebred dogs, and helped run an outfitting business, an elevator business, a spreading business, a hay-stacking business, and a fertilizer business.

“I guess you might say I’ve done a little of everything,” concluded Reynolds, who also sold fabrics and crafts at her Stitch ‘n’ Time shop, before selling the downtown Dillon business in 1983.

Reynolds said she still does a lot of sewing and cross-stitching, just one of her many hobbies.

“People keep asking me what I’m gonna do now that I’m retired, and I say I have plenty to do. I’m not gonna be bored,” said Reynolds, an avid antique doll collector.

“I started collecting dolls about thirty years ago. I’d always loved dolls, and a friend of mine in Dillon gave me a doll dating back to 1898. Things just kind of mushroomed from there,” said Reynolds, who now owns dozens of antique dolls, most dating back to at least the 1920s.

A member-at-large in the United Federation of Doll Clubs, Reynolds often attends doll shows the organization holds around the country.

“I’ve been to their shows in Dallas, Las Vegas, Philadelphia,” said Reynolds, who will be doing some travelling in pursuit of a different hobby this summer, when she and her husband, Harvey, and their cocker spaniel, Lilly Lou, will ride the railroad tracks in Canada in their “speeder,” a railroad motorcar that was originally designed to transport track inspectors and railroad workers, but which now get used by thousands of hobbyists.

“Lily Lou has been riding speeders since she was six months old. She wears a reflector vest and puts her head out the window,” laughed Reynolds, who used to raise purebred cocker spaniels with her son Travis.

“We have a caboose sitting on our property in Pony, and we wanted a speeder,” said Reynolds, who took up speeder riding with Harvey in 2006.

“It’s been a great hobby.”

The first trip Reynolds plans to take in retirement will be in a motorhome that she and Harvey will drive this month to Arizona and California.

“We want to travel and visit friends and grandkids—as long as you have your health, you gotta do those things,” said Reynolds, who still plans to spend her summers in her native Pony, hosting her six grandkids.

“I’m gonna spoil them rotten,” joked Reynolds, who will be returning to the area in late February to watch one of her granddaughters play basketball for Harrison High School.

“We’ve been very fortunate to have her in the community,” said Mussard of Reynolds, who in addition to pursuing her paid work has over the years volunteered for the local 4-H, Make-It-Yourself with Wool with District 3, the local Meals on Wheels program, the Women’s Resource Center, and served as a board member for Community Health and Area 5 out of Butte.

“We will really miss her. But we know Ann will continue to live life to the fullest.”

“I had reservations about retiring,” said Reynolds. “But I’m going on 70. I just thought: you gotta give it up some time or another.”