By Jean Doran Matua, Editor
The announcement was made back in June 2020 that Kimball school-bus driver Dean Mozena was to be awarded the 2020 Veterans of Foreign Wars Bus Driver of the Year for Minnesota. Mozena was nominated by Gene Haag, Senior Vice Commander of the Wat-Kim-Valley V.F.W. Post #5460, and the application included commendations from his employer Hendricks Bus Service (all kept quiet, of course).
Normally, there would have been a big end-of-year party to celebrate Dean’s retirement and his award, and there would have been celebrating on his last school bus ride of the year as well. But this is the year 2020, and things are different. Schools let out in March to shift to distance learning, and they didn’t come back until this fall. Any celebration would have to be postponed, and it would take awhile.
On Saturday, Oct. 3, Dean’s children and grandchildren gathered to watch him receive the plaque officially.
The day was made all the more significant because Dean, who is now retired at age 83, is battling esophageal cancer. The occasion presented both the opportunity to present the well-earned award in-person, and a happy diversion for Dean and his family.
Dean was born in Iowa and was 12 years old when his family moved to Kimball; he’s been here ever since.
As best anyone remembers, Dean Mozena has driven school bus for 62 years. He started around 1958, driving for Hank Hendricks, Neal Louden, Sherrill Smith, Dave Hendricks, and now Hendricks Bus Service. (Dean’s wife Karen drove school bus for 12 years as well.) He has safely transported generations of Kimball students to and from school, and he is beloved by all. By our rough count, he has made more than 22,000 round trips with our kiddos over the years – not counting driving for sports or field trips. Dean has been involved in the community as well, particularly with the Kimball Lions and with his church.
The award goes to one individual in the state of Minnesota each year.
Dean is a hero and a role model for many. This plaque is only a public confirmation of the esteem in which he is held by his family and his community.
Thank you, Dean, for decades of transporting our kids safely, and for the love and support you show our community. We hope you can feel our love and appreciation back to you now.