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Hero Chowchilla bus driver Ed Ray remembered

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

He didn't like to be called a hero, but the 26 children he saved back in 1976 don't know how else to describe him.

91-year-old Edward Ray, Jr. was laid to rest Tuesday. He died last week after a lengthy illness.

Hundreds of people from all over the Valley and Bay Area came to pay their respects and to remember the shy and quiet man who some 30 years ago became the most famous bus driver in the world..

Even the infamous bus was present to say goodbye to its driver at the Chowchilla Cemetery.

There were tears, stories, even some laughter as family and friends remembered the humble man who became a household name.

"Which is kind of funny because all he got after that day was a lot of attention. He was uncomfortable with it," Jodi Heffington-Medrano said. "Ed didn't like to think of himself as a hero, but the pure definition of a hero would say 'Edward Ray'."

The children he saved discussed the relationship they grew to have with the man they call a hero..

"Without Edward being there we wouldn't be here today," Heffington-Medrano said.

When the world learned of his death, the world started calling his family. This June he would have been married to his wife Odessa for 70 years. She tells Action News they tried not to let the kidnapping change the way they lived their lives.

"We decided we're not going to live scared, we just went on everyday, took it one day at a time," Odessa Ray said.

As days and years went by the incident became a distant memory - a tragedy that over the years created a unique and special bond between a bus driver and the children he drove.

"Having ridden his bus, it doesn't matter that we were kidnapped. We were always close to him. If you ever rode his bus you were special in his heart," Irene Carrejo said.

Some of the victims who were on that bus hadn't seen each other since that summer day back in 1976 until the funeral.

(Copyright ©2014 KFSN-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)

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chowchilla, madera county, local, stephanie stone
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