‘Mr. Congeniality’ Of Payson Parks His Last Bus

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Fred Eckle

Recently, bus driver Fred Eckle agreed to drive Payson Mayor Kenny Evans in a town parade.

Big break for Evans, riding with a celebrity.

All along the route, kids cried out happily, “Mr. Fred, Mr. Fred.”

That’s the hard-won fame that comes with driving a school bus through rain, sleet and snow for 19 years. And Eckle did it all with a twinkle in his eye that belied his 84 years.

It’s been a great run, said Eckle on Monday as he received a plaque and a fond farewell at the Payson School Board meeting.

“He’s ‘Mr. Congeniality of Payson,’” said administrator Christine Murphy. “But what lots of people don’t know is that he eats more cookies than Cookie Monster, jumps out of airplanes and climbs rock walls,” she said.

Through all the praise, Mr. Fred grinned and chuckled – very, what’s the word – congenial.

“It’s funny,” he said, “I’m driving the kids of the kids I used to know.”

They’ll miss him in the rain and the sleet.

But at least Kenny Evans got his 15 minutes of fame – riding in Mr. Fred’s back seat.

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