The older we get, the more important it is to stay active. For lifetime Tillamook County resident Robert (Bob) Kenney, those words could not be truer.
By Max Kirkendall
At 75-years young, Kenney recently celebrated a decade of driving for the Tillamook County Transportation District (TCTD). For the past ten years, he has been driving for TCTD’s Dial-a-Ride service, which is a door-to-door demand response transportation service designed to provide customers travel options in under-served areas of the district.
After officially retiring over 20 years ago, Kenney began his driving career somewhat unexpectedly while he and his wife were volunteering at the Tillamook Schools.
“They were in need of a driver and I asked ‘what does it take to be a driver?’ they said all I needed was my commercial drivers license, so next thing you know I’m driving the school bus,” Kenney laughed.
Kenney grew up in Tillamook and attended the Wilson School and graduated from Tillamook high school in 1961. After high school, he enlisted in the Navy and served in Vietnam before returning to Tillamook to work as a district manager for Bonneville Power for the next 37 years.
Kenney and his wife volunteered at the school district for 12 years before he joined the TCTD team. He is now the longest TCTD driver and said he has seen a lot of change throughout his ten years of driving.
“When I started there were only two of us doing dial-a-ride and now we have more than a dozen,” Kenney said. “It’s changed so much in the past ten years. We didn’t have the big garage or anything like that.”
Kenney said he has seen many people come and go who have worked for TCTD, but he has stuck through the turnover and does so because he enjoys what he does.
“It’s not ‘work-work’ to me,” Kenney said. “Working for a power company, you’re up in the middle of the night, working sometimes days without rest. But here, I don’t have to deal with that type of stress. I talk a lot and with this job, I get to visit with people, so it’s enjoyable.”
Through the Dial-a-Ride service, Kenney drives all over Tillamook County and even out to places like Portland and Salem as well to drive people mostly for medical reasons. He calls his part time job, ‘interesting’ due to the fact that he is interacting people from all walks of life; and he has the stories to prove it.
“One time I had a gentlemen from New York City whose wife had died and he was wanting to head out west because he had never been out of New York,” Kenney said. “He went up to his map and stuck a pin somewhere on the West Coast and it landed on Tillamook and he said ‘I’m going to Tillamook.’ I hear stories like that all the time.”
Through his service in the Navy, Kenney said he has been to many different places around the world. However, he has never even had the inclination to live somewhere other than Tillamook County.
“I’ve been all around the world and I’ve never found a better place,” Kenney said.
At 75-years-old, Kenney said that he has a perfect bill of health and that is in part thanks to his job at TCTD. His job has kept him busy and he does not plan on slowing down anytime soon.
“When I’m not busy, I get lazy,” Kenney said. “I’m 75 years old, I still have 20/20 vision, I still have all my teeth and I credit my health to staying active and this job has helped me do that.”