Bus driver Julie Eddy celebrated 25 years driving passengers between Nelson and Richmond with one of her passengers, Brian Gabites [insert, with Julie] proposing marriage to her. Photo: Andrew Board.

Driver finds love on the bus

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In her 25-year career driving buses between Nelson and Richmond, Julie Eddy has come across all sorts of passengers: abusive passengers, funny passengers, kind passengers, passengers that have become friends and even one that is set to become her husband.

Julie has just celebrated 25 years as a Nelson bus driver and, although she says she’s had many friendships with her passengers, it’s clear who her favourite is.

Bus driver Julie Eddy celebrated 25 years driving passengers between Nelson and Richmond with one of her passengers, Brian Gabites [insert, with Julie] proposing marriage to her. Photo: Andrew Board.Brian Gabites started catching the bus from his Stoke home to Nelson, where he works at NBS, four years ago. They got talking while on the bus and became friendly.

Then Julie’s lawn mower broke and Brian offered to lend her his. She gratefully accepted and, after using it, dropped it back to Brian, who suggested dinner.

Several months later, the pair announced in front of their families last week that they were engaged to be married.

Julie says it’s been the highlight of her career.

“I guess the job has given me a lot over the years and now a fiancée.”

Julie started her bus driving career in Waiau, in North Canterbury. There she drove the school bus but she left Waiau with her two children to give them better schooling in Nelson.

It wasn’t long before she was given a job driving school buses in her new town for Suburban Bus Lines. She says, after about seven years she was given a full time job driving scheduled routes between Nelson and Richmond.

Over those two and a half decades she says she’s made some terrific friends.

“It’s a very social job, you always talk to people when they come on and my passengers and I have solved some of the world’s problems on the bus,” she jokes.Bus driver Julie Eddy celebrated 25 years driving passengers between Nelson and Richmond with one of her passengers, Brian Gabites [insert, with Julie] proposing marriage to her. Photo: Andrew Board.

At the beginning of her time in Nelson, Julie was driving students to school at Nayland College. Recently, one of the exchange students at the school in the mid-90s was back visiting her host family and caught the bus to Nelson.

“She was tickled pink that she had the same bus driver, it was very funny.”

She says one of the hardest parts of the job was when her favourite passengers pass away.

“I went to visit one passenger who I knew was sick. I took her some soup but she didn’t answer the door and I heard her calling out. When I got in she said ‘I was waiting for the angels to come and get me and you came’. After that she was put into the Hospice and she died not long after. It was very sad.”

Other passengers include a woman who brought her live chickens along for the ride in a bag and a drunk man who she picked up from the Rising Sun, who then fell asleep, missed his stop and ended up getting off back at the same pub when it came back to Nelson. She also had a man yell abuse at her for not letting him ride the bus because he didn’t have money for a ticket.

Julie also likes to go whitebaiting in Westport and give “little half-pound lots” to some of her older passengers.

“But I didn’t do very well this year so I didn’t give much out.”

She says the job has changed a lot in her time with the roads much busier, making sticking to the schedule tough at times.

“And there’s always road works somewhere, and that can be challenging to manoeuvre such large buses through.”

The introduction of the new Nbus service in 2011 made for much nicer buses to drive she says.

“They’re terrific, nice buses and much bigger so we carry a lot more passengers.”

Julie says she intends to retire when she turns 65 “in a few years” and take time to travel and spend time with her six grandsons and, of course, her new fiancée.

Julie and Brian haven’t set a date for their wedding yet but will still have plenty of daily bus trips together to discuss it.