Thomas E. 'Bear' D'antoni, Truck Driver

July 03, 2009|By Frederick N. Rasmussen

Thomas E. "Bear" D'Antoni, a former Catonsville resident who drove trucks and school buses for 50 years, died of renal failure Tuesday at a nursing home in Jefferson City, Tenn. He was 91.

Born and raised in East Baltimore, Mr. D'Antoni attended parochial schools but left school to help support his family.

"He was 15 when he first began driving trucks," said a son, Robert D'Antoni of Bel Air.

Mr. D'Antoni drove for the Mushroom Express Co. and for many years for Johnson Motor Lines. After the company went out of business, he drove school buses for the Shaw Bus Co., until retiring in the late 1980s. He was a longtime member of Teamsters Local 557, where he had been sergeant-at-arms.

A cheerfully burly man, Mr. D'Antoni earned the nickname "Bear" for his teddy bear-like disposition, his son said.

While working for Shaw Bus Co., he picked up and delivered, each morning and afternoon, students who attended St. Agnes Parochial School in Catonsville.

On special occasions, Mr. D'Antoni's young charges would board a bus that he had specially decorated for them. During the 1960s and 1970s, he coached baseball for the Yale Heights Boys Club.

Mr. D'Antoni had lived in Jefferson City for the past three years.

He was a member of Catonsville Baptist Church.

His wife of 39 years, the former Nellie Kate Harden, died in 1991.

Services will be held at noon today at the Harry H. Witzke Funeral Home, 4112 Old Columbia Pike, Ellicott City.

Also surviving are another son, Thomas V. D'Antoni of Portland, Ore.; a daughter, Barbara Ellen Diggs of Jefferson City; two brothers, Anthony D'Antoni of Towson and John D'Antoni of Baltimore; a sister, Anna Perry of Baltimore; four grandchildren; and 13 great-grandchildren.

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