In the nearly three decades driving the local bus, Maungaturoto identity Bill Lewis has covered more than one million kilometres— the equivalent of 25 times around the earth.
Falling eyesight means the 81-year-old will have to hang up the keys after carrying two generations of students and countless sportsmen and women, particularly rugby players to and from Otamatea.
The octogenarian had driven them as far down as Whanganui and right up to Kaitaia since joining the then-Brooks Motors — now Leabourne Passenger Service — back in September 1994.
"When I arrived at the depot, they told me 'there's your horse', go to the primary school and pick up the kids. The last kid to get off, put them in the front seat and they'll tell you where to go," he reminisced.
Lewis presumed he would fill in for another driver for that day but the short stint morphed into nearly 26 years — the longest the great grandfather stayed in any job.
His last day will be August 7.
Based on the 148km just on school runs daily, he has done more than one million kilometres in nearly 26 years.
• Still plenty of drive after 60 years
Born in Paparoa, he went to the Tanoa Native School in the upper reaches of the Kaipara Harbour, before landing a government scholarship to study at a Catholic high school in Auckland, where he lasted three years.
"Me and a boy from Panguru bolted because, being a Catholic school, things were very strict. We weren't used to the routine. Dad came to pick me up."
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Lewis wanted to become a builder, like his dad.
He worked for a construction company and then on the rail as a locomotive assistant in Whangārei where he met his future wife.
"She was working for the Māori Affairs Department and I had a motorcycle. One night, she approached me and asked if I could drop her to her sister's place on Morningside.
"I said 'two people can't fit on it' and she goes 'I'll sit sideways'. I was staying in the barracks close to the railway station."
His first taste driving a bus was in Auckland when, as a 21-year-old, he responded to an ad in a local paper for a driver. The job paid 18 pounds ($36) a week, doing the Onehunga to city run.
After five years, he resigned and worked for a company making road and stormwater grates for 25 years before coming home to Otamatea.
"I thought I'd be a farmer and leased a piece of land and put stock on it. That was bulls*** farming. My heart wasn't into it," he said.
While helping his cousin with fencing in Otamatea, bus driver Kelvin Foster asked for Lewis to call the bus depot and the rest is history.
"I'll miss the job and my workmates. At the beginning of last year, I picked up a child and her mum came to the bus door and said 'you still driving the bus? You used to take me to school'.
"I like the school runs because you know exactly where you're going. It's the second generation that I am transporting to and from school, and it's been good fun."
He bought a cottage at St Heliers in Auckland for $1400 which he brought to his farm on Batley Rd, Otamatea in 1990 and that's where he still lives.
On life after driving, Lewis quipped: "Mow the cemetery and marae lawns."
His supervisor at Leabourne, Lisa Renata, has known Lewis her whole life and his sister used to work with her mum at the Maungaturoto Hotel.
"No matter what goes on in his and our lives, Bill is such a positive entity to be around. If you're upset, he'd talk you out of it. He just has a fantastic way of making things feel all right.
"He does our longest run, the Golden Stairs Run, along Oakleigh/Paparoa Rd and Taipuha. We'll miss him. The kids love him and they'll miss him, too," she said.