TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – She prided herself for being safe, yet stern, when it came to driving her Hillsborough County school bus.
Cynthia Gibson – known to her students as Ms. Cherry – died Monday, the victim of a morning car crash on Interstate 4. The horrible crash happened as Ms. Cherry made her way to work on the first day of school.
Generations of young people rode her bus.
“Whatever is expected in your behavior in school is expected on the bus,” Gibson said in a 2017 interview with WFLA about the new school year.
Gibson shared her wisdom with a new class of kindergartners who would be riding her bus.
“Mainly I like that I’m transporting my future,” she said in that 2017 interview.
For more than 30 years, Ms. Cherry navigated the streets of Hillsborough County.
“She didn’t have a lot of problems. She put her foot down and those kids listened” said former school bus driver, Jodi St. John.
St. John remembers Ms. Cherry as a very spiritual person, who remained active.
“She was a very wonderful person. She was always happy. She was always willing to help. Everyone used to ask her for everything and she’d always give,” she said.
Jim Beekman, the general manager of the school district’s transportation department issued a statement, saying in part, “Today marked my 36th school opening and to this day, I have never met a driver so unique and so full of passion for those around her. I truly lost a great friend today. ”
“Words will never capture how much she will be missed by those who knew her,” he added.
Getting the news about this beloved school bus driver was hard to take.
“I cried. She was always there for me,” said St. John.
Those who worked with her are remembering her as a mentor for drivers and a friend for students. We’re told Ms. Cherry also greatly enjoyed her role as a grandmother.
“She’s gonna be greatly missed,” said St. John.
Grief counselors will be at the transportation office on Tuesday morning.