Howard Burton was known as a dependable man who was quick to smile and happy to help. For more than 23 years, he spent his days getting students safely to school as a Lowell bus driver, but he also helped in the high school cafeteria and assisted with grounds maintenance in the summer.
Nate Fowler, superintendent for Lowell Area Schools, says he always went out of his way to speak to the long-time employee whenever he got the chance. “I always felt better after I talked to Howard,” he explains. “He was someone who was a great role model.”
Last Friday, Howard passed away after a brief battle with COVID-19. He leaves behind his cherished wife Carol, sons Phil and Matt and numerous friends and relatives.
Funeral Starts with Procession of Buses
For someone who gave so much to the local school district, it was only fitting that Howard’s funeral was held at the Bob Perry Memorial Stadium at Lowell High School.
Before the funeral yesterday, fellow bus drivers gathered to escort the hearse and family to the high school. At 9:30am, they drove down Foreman to Alden Nash and then north to the high school. “It was moving to see that line of school buses,” Fowler says.
The procession was the idea of the LAS Transportation Department, and a fitting tribute for someone who spent so much time driving one of the yellow buses himself.
At the stadium, visitation was held for an hour before the funeral service began at 11am. During the service, there was music, photographs and many recollections shared about Howard’s impact on the community and in the lives of those he loved.
Steady Driver, Team Player, Valued Community Member
After serving as a substitute driver, Howard was given his first full-time route in 1998. Carol Hamilton, who served as Director of Transportation for LAS until her retirement in 2017, remembers Howard as a hard worker who rarely called in sick and was always willing to volunteer for extra duties. “He was just always one of those very steady drivers,” she says.
That trait came in handy when, one year, a turkey flew through the window of his bus and landed in the driver’s seat. “As you can imagine, there was glass everywhere and a dead turkey on his lap,” Hamilton recalls. She was grateful Howard was behind the wheel that day as he was able to guide the bus and its passengers to safety after the accident.
Even when not encountering wayward turkeys, Howard was known for being the type of driver who didn’t get flustered or feel rushed. Back when he started his career, drivers were responsible for driving their routes in advance to record the stop times, and Hamilton says Howard’s routes always worked out just as they should. “He was always on time for the kids,” she says.
Overall, Hamilton remembers Howard as someone who was a team player and fun presence in the department. “I don’t know that any of those he worked with disliked him, and that’s saying something,” she adds.
After her retirement, Hamilton remembers Howard calling to say he would be baptized that fall. While she mourns his loss, she takes comfort in knowing he carried a deep faith and will leave a lasting legacy behind for all those who knew him.
Howard Burton’s obituary can be read online, and the funeral service is available for viewing on the Impact Church Facebook page. Those who would like to help his family with their expenses can make a donation on GoFundMe.