by George Yap

OC Transpo Route 509, the rural commuter bus service to Ottawa that has served Merrickville-Wolford, North Grenville, and surrounding communities since the mid-1970s, sadly ceased operations last December. The route’s yellow school bus, operated by Howard Bus Service since the late 1990s, carried home its final riders on Christmas Eve. The route was previously operated by Seeley’s Bus Lines.

With the demise of the bus service, many local residents now lack access to a convenient and affordable way to get to and from Ottawa for work, school, medical appointments and other activities.

To bid farewell to Route 509, riders past and present came together on January 12 at the Royal Canadian Legion in Merrickville to share memories and thank Ron Brown who skilfully piloted the bus for the past 20 years. Ron always showed up, even on the worst winter days. During Ron’s tenure, it is estimated that he drove more than one million kilometres – equivalent to 25 times around the world!

Garth Wallace, a local author, humourist, and former bus rider, was the event’s guest speaker. He fondly shared some of his favourite Ron-isms – funny things that Ron would say while driving the bus. Merrickville-Wolford Mayor Doug Struthers presented Ron with a Certificate of Appreciation to recognize his long commitment and dedication to providing the important bus service to local residents.

Mayor Struthers and Kemptville Mayor Nancy Peckford have met with bus riders and it is hoped that another service provider will fill the large void left by the closure of Route 509. In any event, former riders will miss the familiar rumble of the old yellow school bus and chance to chuckle over Ron’s latest Ron-ism.

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