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Olympic bus driver widow says husband worked 12-hour days

The Olympic Bus Network driver who suffered a fatal heart attack at the wheel near the Port Mann Bridge Feb. 22 was three weeks shy of his 50th wedding anniversary.

“Our (two) kids had a huge anniversary party planned for us,” Dale Roberge’s widow Jeanette told Vancouver's 24 hours by phone from Minneapolis. “Then they had to send out postcards canceling the anniversary and telling people when the funeral service was going to be.”

Roberge, 71, retired in 2001 from Metro Transit in the Twin Cities. Jeanette was also a driver. They financed an Alaska cruise by driving at Salt Lake 2002. They were hoping to visit Australia after Vancouver 2010.

Jeanette said they were working 12 hour days and had to “pick up the slack” when drivers missed shifts.

“They didn’t overwork him,” she said.

Both stayed at a Travelodge in Langley and drove Lonsdale Quay-to-Cypress Mountain runs. Dale switched to shuttling drivers between motels and the bus depot a day before his death.

“That Sunday night he went in, I wasn’t scheduled to go in when he did,” she said. “So, little knowing, I kissed him goodbye and he went off.”

Dale Roberge suffered a heart attack around 4:05 a.m. near the Port Mann Bridge.

Jeanette flew home the day after Dale’s death but had to wait 10 days for his embalmed body to arrive because of customs red tape. VANOC paid to ship the body to Minnesota, according to Gameday Management president Tony Vitrano.

She said 500 people attended the March 5 funeral, including his fellow Shriners and even some Olympic bus drivers.

“He would’ve been in awe of the ceremony. He was a sweet, humble person. Just a darling person,” she said.

“You can tell I’m still in love with him.”

She said she was treated well by Edison Transportation and Gameday Management. Co-workers sent a package containing a “You are our hero” banner, giant card and $250 in donations.

Nobody from VANOC called to offer condolences, she said.

“Their priorities had to be to make sure everything went good for the competitors, and not worry about just a bus driver,” she said. “I didn’t expect to hear from them.”

Bob Mackin reports for Vancouver's 24 hours.

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