Morse High School students presented their bus driver, Ron Hagerthy, with a banner to show their appreciation and support for him while he battled stage four cancer. Photo courtesy of Morse High School

BATH — Ron Hagerthy, a veteran bus driver for Morse High School in Bath, died at Mid Coast Hospital in Brunswick of esophageal and bone cancer Feb. 25, according to Sue Ellen Whittaker, his sister. He was 55 years old.

For 25 years, he picked up students at Morse High School at 7:50 a.m. to bring them to McMann Field and back. He continued working while undergoing chemotherapy amid the COVID-19 pandemic until his final two weeks of life.

“We let him set his own schedule and he was still here cleaning and pumping gas until the last two weeks,” said Suzanne Steen, co-owner of Bath Bus Service, which contracts with Morse High School. “He worked here for 39 years and I don’t think I ever saw him sit down during that time.”

After he was diagnosed with stage four esophageal and bone cancer last August, a group of Morse High School students gave him a banner that read “Hagerthy Strong,” signed by the students he brings to and from McMann Field on Congress Avenue from Morse High School for physical education each day.

Eric Varney, Morse High School principal, said Hagerthy’s role as a member of the community and a Morse High School alumnus is part of what made him a trusted and valued bus driver.

“Ron was a great bus driver because he cared about the kids,” said Varney. “Good people that have the students’ best interest in mind are always missed and Ron was one of those people.”

“He dedicated his life to safely transporting our children across the district and on field trips,” Charlie Bingham, Morse High School’s physical education teacher, wrote in a statement Monday. “He was one of the good guys. He was quick to have a good story for every ride or when you saw him pumping gas. Our thoughts and prayers are with Ron’s family, colleagues, and the students on his bus route as they grieve this incredible loss.”

Whittaker said her brother was one of the hardest working people she has ever known.

“He was dedicated to whatever he did and if there was something he could do to help someone, he’d do it,” she said.

He would give someone the shirt off his back,” agreed Melanie Hagerthy, Ron Hagerthy’s wife. “If someone asked him for help, he’d be there for them.”

“I was mad that God brought us together again,” she said. “Why is he taking him away? But then I realized it was so he didn’t have to do this alone.”

The couple dated briefly in high school, but lost touch after graduating.

“Twenty-eight years later, I found him on Facebook,” said Melanie Hagerthy. “He was the same Ron I knew in high school. He always listened to what I had to say and loved me unconditionally.”

The couple got married in March 2013.

Melanie Hagerthy said when her husband was diagnosed last August, she had the overwhelming fear that “I was going to lose him.”

When Ron Hagerthy was taken to the emergency room for the final time after collapsing at home last Thursday, Melanie Hagerthy said she wasn’t allowed to go with him due to COVID-19 restrictions. However, as his blood pressure dropped, she was allowed into the hospital with minutes to spare before he took his final breath.

“I leaned over to kiss him and told him I’d always love and he’ll be in my heart forever, but it’s time to go home,” she said. “I watched him take three or four more breaths and then he was gone. We’re just thankful he’s not suffering anymore.”

A funeral will be held at TnT Bible Church in Topsham on Saturday at 2 p.m. Only 50 people are allowed in the church due to COVID-19 restrictions, but the service can be watched live on the church’s Facebook page.

The family also has a Go Fund Me online fundraiser to help pay for medical bills and funeral expenses.

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