After driving more than 650,000 miles in nearly 32 years, Reynoldsburg school bus driver Henrietta Hampton plans to retire Feb. 29.

After driving more than 650,000 miles in nearly 32 years, Reynoldsburg school bus driver Henrietta Hampton plans to retire Feb. 29.

Hampton was hired as a driver on March 15, 1980.

District transportation supervisor Mike Rosenberger said Hampton has transported approximately 3,200 children to every Reynoldsburg area school, including St. Pius, Grace Christian and Bishop Hartley.

He said Hampton has always been deeply concerned with the children and their safety.

"She was very concerned not with just how they rode the bus but she was concerned about them being safe and growing up to be responsible people," Rosenberger said. "She believes sincerely in this school district and its children."

A resident of Reynoldsburg, Hampton lives with her husband, Tom, who retired as a custodian with the school district 12 years ago.

They raised two children, Rebecca, a 1986 Reynoldsburg High School graduate, and Thomas, who attended the Ohio School for the Blind.

Born and raised in Columbus, Hampton graduated from Central High School in 1957. She and Tom were married in 1958.

She said for the most part, she never had any other ambition in life than to be a housewife and have children. However, in 1970, Hampton landed a job as a part-time receptionist with the Desoto Paint Co., working there until landing her current job as a school bus driver with Reynoldsburg City Schools.

Hampton said she wanted the job because it provided the hours that allowed her to take care of her ill mother, Mary Olendorf.

"My mother had a stroke and it was the only job I could go to where I could get up early, go to work, come back and check on her, make her breakfast and put her back to bed, before I had to go back to my afternoon routes," Hampton said.

She said the memories of her long career are mostly good, and she especially enjoyed interacting with the children.

"It's nice to have the children like you, but it's far better to have respect," she said. "When I look in the bus mirror and a child says, 'I'm sorry' because they cussed or did something wrong, I know they respect me.

"I'm kind of tough from September to Halloween: This is the way it is, here are the rules - but I always passed out candy to all of them at Halloween and they'd say, 'oh, she's not as bad as we thought she was,'" she said.

Hampton said the time for retirement seems right. Her husband's brother passed away around Thanksgiving and recently the husband of one of her closest friends also died.

"I just began to realize that life is not certain," she said. "I haven't retired for economic reasons and now I realize that life is unpredictable, and if I'm ever going to retire, I might as well do it."

She said the one thing she will miss after she retires will be the students. "I have the best route and the best students ever in my 32 years," Hampton said.

Once she is officially retired, she plans to stay home, tend her garden and spend time with family and her dog, Benny, a Bernese Mountain Dog that she calls her "four-legged grandchild."

"I love flowers and being outside," she said. "I've tried my hands at vegetables, but I love flowers, shrubs and that sort of thing. I also love my art class. I love tole painting, and ceramics, so I'll keep doing that also."

Hampton said the message she would like to share with all the children she has bused is, "when you know wrong from right, do right."

"I cried when I handed my notice to my boss that I was going to retire," she said. "It's a big decision to be at the top of the list and give that up and say you're going to stay home after 32 years. That's part of your life, but I believe and pray about it that everything will be OK," she said.