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P.E.I. daughter recounts father’s 60-plus year career as truck driver

A procession that included 17 transfer trucks turned out to honour long-time P.E.I. trucker James Deane Johnson who died last week at the age of 80. Johnson spent more than 60 years driving trucks all over North America.
A procession that included 17 transfer trucks turned out to honour long-time P.E.I. trucker James Deane Johnson who died last week at the age of 80. Johnson spent more than 60 years driving trucks all over North America.

Deana Roberts said it was only fitting that her truck-driving father’s funeral featured a procession of 17 transfer trucks.

James Deane Johnson, 80, died peacefully at home in Cornwall last week following a lifetime of driving his truck all over North America.

Fourteen Midland trucks, two RST trucks and one JTML truck took part in a procession that stretched from Belvedere Funeral Home in Charlottetown to Westmoreland Cemetery, near Crapaud.

“He drove for 60-plus years all across Canada, all across North America,’’ Roberts said. “At the end, he was just doing Saint John, N.B., five, possible six trips week (in his late 70s).’’

His career driving for Midland boasted three million miles accident-free over the past 23 years.

Roberts said it was the people her father encountered in his travels he loved so much.

“He loved the people, and if he didn’t know anybody when he walked into a place he knew them when he left. He always had a smile; always had a story and everyone knew him or knew of him.’’

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By the numbers

James Deane Johnson

How James Deane Johnson’s safety record compares to other numbers
- Three million: the number of miles Johnson drove accident-free for Midland
- 4.8 million: the number of kilometres that converts into
- 369,000-plus: the number of trips across Confederation Bridge you’d have to make to equal his safe driving record
- 515: the number of times you’d have to drive from the eastern-most tip of Canada, Cape Spear, N.L., to the western most tip, St. Elias, Yukon
- 79,077: the number of trips from Charlottetown to Summerside you’d have to make

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Roberts said she can remember plenty of times when winter weather would delay her father’s return home to Cornwall, but she always looked forward to spending time with him on the road in the summer.

“It was a big deal to go with him in the summertime, to go with him for a week because he went away weeks at a time. That was like summer vacation. You got to spend one week with Dad to yourself.’’

Roberts remembers standing at the banana pier in New Jersey observing just how green bananas were coming off the boat

Roberts said her father also taught her all she knows about servicing a truck.

“I can remember Sundays growing up was our day to do service work, so I’m a 48-year-old woman who knows how to change tires. I know how to grease, I know how to grout tires to make them last longer and wash a truck and wax and shine. The truck had to be spotless all the time.’’

Roberts said her father was mingling with friends up to two weeks before he died.

“He had still been going up to the coffee shop every morning at Robin’s Donuts at 8, and a lot of people didn’t even know he was sick. His coffee buddies were as precious to him as his family.’’

As the family mourns his passing, though, it will be the man’s smile that sticks with them forever – and the memories.

“It wasn’t as much the destination; it was the journey to get there.’’

 

dave.stewart@theguardian.pe.ca

Twitter.com/DveStewart

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