By Kendall Patterson
No one can say they love driving kids around like Joe Raymond Stanfill. When there was a sporting event and a driver was needed, Stanfill always was willing to get behind the steering wheel and get the teams to their destinations.
With Joe Stanfill as their driver, students from three to four generations loved to get on school buses seeing his friendly face.
Stanfill entered retirement on Nov. 6 after chauffeuring Chester County athletes and clubs for 70 years with about 30 of those years including him also having a regular bus route.
On top of it all, he had a clean driving record all those years.
Joe, along with his wife Clara Sue Stanfill, started their careers with the Chester County school system in 1949 after they graduated.
With Joe driving for 70 years and Clara being a secretary for 44 years, the couple has over 114 years of service to the school district.
Director of Schools Troy Kilzer II said that Joe was the longest serving employee for Chester County Schools.
“Mr. Joe would rank the highest with longest service,” he said. “Ms. Clara Sue would also rank in the top ten, but likely the top five of employees with the longest service… They don’t make them anymore like Mr. Joe and Ms. Clara Sue. Both of them have set a very high mark for the rest of us to follow.”
Kilzer, along with John and Cherrie Pipkin, the superintendents before him, had experiences with Stanfill as a driver from when they were in high school, to when they were coaches and all the way to when they were superintendents. John who was the schools’ superintendent from 1996-2010, and Cherrie who was in the position from 2010-2014 could only speak highly of Joe.
“I can’t think of anything that isn’t positive about Mr. Joe,” John said. “He was more than just a driver. He was a friend, a supporter and an encourager.”
“When you think of his name you can’t help but smile. He’s always smiling and anxious to please,” Cherrie said.
Mr. Joe was not just friendly. He was reliable as a driver. That was one of the attributes that made him a valuable asset to Chester County.
“He would never say no. If we needed him, he was always ready to go,” Cherrie said.
Kilzer and The Pipkins’ daughter-in-law Lee Pipkin explained how his dependability extended to even getting to the destinations on time without a problem.
“At the beginning of each season, I would give Mr. Joe our schedule, and he would tell us when we needed to leave. He knew pretty much to the second how long it would take to get to our destination,” Lee said.
“I can say without reservation that we always arrived on time and safely,” Kilzer said. “When I served as a coach, we would trust ‘Mr. Joe’ to let us know when we should arrive at the opposing school. You could count on him to be better than GPS since he had been driving to these destinations for so many years.”
Over the multiple decades, memories have been made with Joe.
Cherrie Pipkin recounted when she was a coach on the way to a regional tournament.
She explained how Joe taped the number 11 over the actual bus number since it was her lucky number. His love portrayed over the years is just one of the many reasons students over time have grown to love him.
“They couldn’t help but love him, because he loved them and it showed,” Cherrie said.
Current Chester County coaches Lee Pipkin and Trent McManus will miss having him as their driver. They said how they will not find another driver like him.
“Joe Stanfill is just one of a kind. From summer camps to the state tournament in Murfreesboro, Mr. Joe was our guy! Very rarely do you find a special person you can count on like we could count on Mr. Joe. It didn’t matter when, where, what or how… Mr. Joe was always ready to fire up the bus and head out at a moments notice,” said Lee. “He has been a member of this program for years and I know there are so many past and present players, manager, coaches and parents who appreciate how he took care of them and their kids. We will never have another ‘Mr. Joe.’ I, for one, am proud and honored to say that Mr. Joe is my friend, and that I got to ride shotgun with ‘The Mr. Joe!’”
“Track and field, boy and girls soccer… they love Mr. Joe,” McManus said. “He liked being around them and spending time with him and eating with him after games. Everyone said ‘Thank you, Mr. Joe.’ They would clean up the bus and carry all their equipment out. They did all that for him, because they just loved having him around… I love Mr. Joe.”
Mr. Joe said he will miss driving the students, coaches and athletes around and taking the trips just as much as they will miss him.
“I’ve been doing it so long, I guess it’s just part of me,” he said. “There’s just so many good memories about the whole thing. That “Mr. Joe” really stuck. The kids will always get on the bus and say ‘Hey, Mr. Joe’ and ‘Thank you, Mr. Joe’ when they got off. I hated to quit that bus driving.”