Remembering Jack Gaffney

  • As we celebrate the district’s 75th anniversary, we want to recognize the passing of a Rush-Henrietta legend. Jack Gaffney, whose name is synonymous with our school district, died during the anniversary year in March 2022. The longtime Rush resident was 88.

    Jack was born in 1933 and lived in our school district his entire life. After graduating from high school in 1951, he worked for two years in the cafeteria at Rush-Henrietta Central School. That building is what we now call Roth Junior High School.

    Jack became a substitute bus driver for Rush-Henrietta in 1957, beginning a storied career with our transportation department. At the time, he also was a successful farmer. In 1964, he sold his dairy cows after a family member developed an allergy. With three young children - ages 4, 3, and 2 - Jack sought employment as a full-time bus driver and was hired by Ed Woodhams, Rush-Henrietta’s director of transportation at the time.

    Jack performed admirably, and, in 1968, he was named assistant director of transportation. At that time, many of the transportation directors in Monroe County had farming backgrounds. Like Jack, they were known as strong business people, good managers, and leaders. When Woodhams retired in 1971, Jack succeeded him. His office was located at what is known as the John R. “Jack” Gaffney West Henrietta Education Building. The former school building was named after him in 2019. The photo accompanying this story shows Jack and his family on that happy day.

    Jack was a charter member of the Rochester Area Transportation Supervisors Association, and director of transportation in Rush-Henrietta from 1971 to 1996. He was well known for his eye for detail. He developed a routing system that was based on index cards, thumb tacks, and a string on a cork board that he used to develop safe and efficient routes for students.

    Times were changing, though, and Jack was quick to understand that computers - a novelty in those days - could be beneficial. He played a key role in the transition to computerized bus routing. Jack also was the first transportation director in the area to switch from gasoline-powered buses to diesel-powered engines, which provided better efficiency at a lower cost.

    By the early 1970s, there were twice as many students attending Rush-Henrietta schools as there are today - as many as 12,000 kids! With the district growing so quickly, busing challenges were ever-present. Jack was involved with all aspects of busing, including having a say on the start and end times of classroom instruction at each school.

    In recognition of his outstanding leadership, Jack was honored as the first recipient of the Art Schock award, given by the New York Association for Pupil Transportation. This is the highest award from the association, and is still given today. Jack was named to the association’s Hall of Fame in 2002.
    Jack retired as transportation director in 1996, but he didn’t leave our service. In retirement, he stayed involved, serving as a driver for 13 years. He retired for good in 2009, more than 50 years after he drove his first bus. “I loved the bus business,” Jack told us in 2019.

    His influence continues to be felt here and elsewhere. He played a significant role in mentoring transportation professionals, helping others develop into strong leaders, too. Four people who trained under him went on to become transportation directors for local school districts.

    Jack and his wife, Carolyn, were married for 64 years. They have three children who continue his legacy of supporting education, demonstrating many of his trademark characteristics in their own careers. Their daughter, Paula Harvey, is a member of the transportation department in Honeoye Falls-Lima. Another daughter, Martha Mack, has worked for Rush-Henrietta since the 1990s, most recently in the high school main office. And, their son, John Gaffney, is retired after leading our grounds crew for many years. It’s easy to see how these individuals developed their strong work ethic and can-do attitude.

    Jack’s community service includes time spent on the Rush Town Board and Rush Town Zoning Board. He was a lifetime member of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church and served as a Eucharist Minister. He volunteered with the Rush Fire Department. Many people in our community would recognize him as the man who for many years greeted them as they came to participate in our district’s budget votes.

    At the building dedication in 2019, we shared a comment from Jack’s longtime friend, Michael Proukou. He told us: “Jack displays a rare humbleness, unlike anyone I have met. Jack has always attributed his success, both in his professional and personal life, to those who surround him. Jack would never accept the credit for all that he’s accomplished.”

    We are so grateful for Jack Gaffney and his lifetime association with Rush-Henrietta and its schools. You can view post #27 for some more amazing facts about this incredible man.

    [Post 26] #75Posts75Years

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