Trucker Buddy Founder Gary King passes away
06/11/2007 - 2:15:13 pm
Gary King will never know the extent of the influence he has had on more than two million children who have had a Trucker Buddy since the program’s inception in 1993. On June 9th, after struggling with both cancer and heart disease, Gary passed away in his sleep. His wife, Carol, who was his partner and inspiration, survives. He also leaves behind three children, Sarah, Melissa and David.
In 1993, while living in Elkhorn, Wisconsin, Gary drove a truck leased to Dart Transit (Eagan, MN). He felt a need to share his over the road stories with an elementary class, so he asked a friend, whose wife was a teacher in Williams Bay, Wisconsin if he could correspond with her class. She agreed, and the Trucker Buddy program was born.
As Gary shared the postcards and letters with his truck stop friends, they asked him how they too, could adopt a class and help children understand the importance of the trucking industry while alleviating some of the loneliness and boredom they faced on the road. Gary and Carol started matching drivers with schools, and spent hours at their kitchen table helping refine the program, which quickly grew to include nearly 5,000 driver student matches.
In 1994, Kenworth Truck Company boosted the goals of the program with major funding for the recently formed nonprofit organization. Throughout that time, Gary continued to drive, while Carol worked tirelessly to match drivers and teachers. Eventually, Gary was able to get off the road and promote the goals of the Trucker Buddy program at trade shows and industry events.
In 2000, after experiencing health problems, the Kings turned Trucker Buddy over to the new Executive Director, Ellen Voie, who had previously served on its board of directors. Voie continued to grow the program to what it has become today, and remained close to the founder and original leader, Gary King, even after leaving the post last year.
Today, nearly 3000 teachers and close to 60,000 children continue to correspond with their Trucker Buddy pen pal. Some drivers, like Leonard “Sandpaper” Emery, have been writing to the same class for over a decade. Many former students have graduated and continue to describe the impact their driver had made in their lives.
“I was proud to further the goals of Trucker Buddy, and to show Gary and Carol King that their idea had reached an wonderful level of influence in the industry, and for the children and drivers who participated,” said Voie. “Gary and I remained close to the end, and he always reminded me that I was like a daughter to him.”
Services for Gary King will be held on Saturday, June 16 at 1:00 PM at Lockwood Funeral Home, 730 Wisconsin Street, Elkhorn, WI 53121
Memorials can be sent to the:
Gary King Memorial Fund
C/O Monona State Bank
PO Box 6500
Monona, WI 53716