SAN ANTONIO – It was January 1979 when Raul Chapa started working for VIA as a bus operator, a job he didn’t think he would stay at for very long.
“I had to be face to face with the public, which I was very uncomfortable with,” Chapa said.
It took about a year for things to change for Chapa in an unlikely way. A teen boarded his bus and pulled a knife on him.
“That’s when I realized I was here for a purpose because I could relate to him because of my upbringing as a child,” Chapa said. “We became friends and from that point on, I realized that it was much more than a job.”
People from all walks of life would ride on his bus and he would hear their stories and offer advice.
Some key moments during his 41 years of service include driving nuns in 1987 to a mass with Pope John Paul II and bringing in Hurricane Katrina evacuees.
“This was my public because I made many friends from every walk of life," Chapa said.
Chapa along with his wife, who also worked for VIA, were not planning to retire for another year, but then the COVID-19 pandemic hit. When another VIA driver who was a close friend of his died from the virus, Chapa said he felt that it was time to park his bus for the last time.
“A couple of days after his passing, I woke up one night and said ‘life’s too short,’” Chapa said. “I faced my wife and said ‘I’m going to retire.’”
She decided to retire as well and Sept. 1 was their last day at work. While 41 years of working for VIA had come to an end, Chapa left with some big awards and accomplishments.
He was awarded the “Three Million Mile Award” on behalf of the National Safety Council and will be featured at the Texas Transportation Museum for driving all those miles accident-and incident-free.
“Because God was my copilot, it was simple and the next thing, I worked for a company that is outstanding,” Chapa said. “It became a super interesting career to the point I loved what I was doing until the day I retired.”