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LR5 school bus driver dies after sudden battle with COVID-19, family left devastated

Updated: Oct. 23, 2020 at 7:16 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Lexington-Richland School District 5 is in the process of bringing back students four days a week for face-to-face instruction as part of their phase two model, with third to sixth graders heading back four days a week beginning this week.

However, as the district is working to fully reopen, they experienced a loss this week. One of their bus drivers passed away after a battle with COVID-19.

Joe Evett was 68 years old. His family said he was diagnosed with COVID-19 on Oct. 10 and passed away less than a week later, on Oct. 16.

“It just breaks me down knowing he left here like this,” Tonia Evett, Joe Evett’s daughter, said. “It’s just devastating.”

His family said that to know Joe Evett was to love him, and that his last months were filled doing the things that made him happiest.

They said he had just become a bus driver this year. He only got to drive his bus for about 30 days before losing his battle with COVID-19.

“He wanted to stay busy, he was a busy man, but he loved those kids on that bus,” Tonia Evett said.

His family said he loved being a bus driver because it allowed him to do what he loved most -- talk to people.

“He finally got his license to drive the bus and after that, he pursued it,” Mary Evett, Joe Evett’s wife, said. “He loved to work with those children and the other people he worked with.”

His family says they are heartbroken. They don’t know where he contracted the virus, but say he was always taking every precaution to stay safe by wearing a mask and washing his hands.

“He was a bubbly, happy person all the time,” Tonia Evett said. “He took the precautions that’s out there -- the hand washing and mask wearing, he did all that -- and still it came and took his life like it did.”

Joe Evett was in the U.S. Army Reserve for 22 years and then owned a construction company. His family said in his free time he loved singing in the choir at church.

“He was a people person,” his wife said. “I don’t care who it was, he didn’t meet any strangers.”

Joe’s family said he didn’t have any pre-existing conditions and was in good health, something that’s made the loss feel even more heartbreaking and sudden.

His funeral will be Saturday at the Heritage Memorial Gardens in Westminster. The service will take place at 1 p.m.

The school district gave WIS the following statement:

“We mourn the loss of Mr. Evett, who has had a positive impact since joining us in September. Our thoughts are with his family during this difficult time, and out of respect for his family’s privacy, we will decline to comment further.”

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