BEVERLEA WALZ PHOTO | Donna King with with one of the Nutrition Program vans.
There were cheers and general jubilation at the Dinner Bell last Friday when Karin Bennett announced that Donna King had passed the test for a commercial driver’s license. Donna was seated at table #4 and proudly signaled “thumbs up” to the four corners of Fellowship Hall.
Donna had taken the test the day before. “It was a lot easier this time,” she said. “I was less nervous. There were two women in charge and 15 of us waiting to be tested including two men with a truck. They failed because they didn’t know how to use the air brakes.”
Having her CDL means more employment opportunities on Shelter Island. All she had been able to do before was drive the small Suffolk County Office for the Aging vans on Monday and Friday, bringing seniors who no longer have licenses in to the luncheons.
With the CDL, she’ll be able to use the town’s handicapped bus to deliver Silver Circle Club members on Wednesdays and to drive SISCA members who will enjoy an expanded trip schedule this year.
Driving the town bus is child’s play for a woman with Donna’s background. In the 1950s she got her “over-the-road” license and first drove a one-trailer rig for Victor Express, then double and triple rigs for a company called Roadway and finally for Swift.
The long-haul trucking business was in decline and she was offered a dispatch job at Swift. But, as Donna said, “If your wheels aren’t rollin’, you’re not makin’ money.” Both she and her second husband Wayne, also a driver, retired from Swift in 2009 and came to Shelter Island in 2010. Wayne is the son of Loretta and Vincent King, whose family is well-known here.
“Shelter Island is my home now,” said this woman born on a farm in Hobart, Indiana. “This is Eden.”
Dinner Bell profiles and portraits by Bev Walz are an ongoing series begun in 2005. — M.B.