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Former school bus driver fights pancreatic cancer

IU Health Simon Cancer Center

Former school bus driver fights pancreatic cancer

For 25 years, Alan “Dale” Albright drove a school bus. He looked at the kids on his route as his own. Now, in his retirement, he’s battling pancreatic cancer.

By IU Health Senior Journalist T.J. Banes, tfender1@iuhealth.org

In his humble opinion, Alan “Dale” Albright has lived a simple life. Yet, the tales he shares are filled with details. At the age of 69, he’s transported precious cargo aboard a school bus, he’s built more than a dozen log homes, and traveled the country in 15 different campers.

It was April of 2018 when he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He underwent a Pancreaticoduodenectomy; also know as the Whipple procedure, to remove the cancer from his pancreas. His health was stable until January 2019 and the cancer returned. Under the care of IU Health Dr. Anita Turk, Albright began chemotherapy. He has also undergone genetic testing and hoping to become a candidate for a drug trial.

“My Grandfather died at age 59 of pancreatic cancer, and my mother was 75 when she died of pancreatic cancer. I tell people I got my mom’s crummy inside and my dad’s orneriness,” said Albright. His dad died two years ago at the age of 88. He also has a brother and sister.

A life-long resident of Shoals, Ind. in Martin County, Albright is proud of the town’s history. It was founded under the name “Memphis” and is known for “jug rock,” the only freestanding table rock formation east of the Mississippi River. Mostly, Albright likes to talk about his school bus route. In a town of 700 people, 270 students make up the school system and he transported several generations of them during his 25 years behind the wheel. Pre-School, high school and vocational were all part of his route.

“The kids were always so honest. I hauled one family that started with pre-school all the way through seventh grade. When their little six-year-old told me I was ugly, I laughed and thanked her for being so honest,” said Albright. After his retirement he began building log homes in the area.

Forty-eight years ago he married his wife Ruth Ann. They were unable to have children so he said he always thought of the school children as part of his own family. He and Ruth Ann met through a cousin. She was 15 at the time and Albright was 16. As soon as she turned 16 they began dating.

“She’s a jewel. She’s kept me alive,” said Albright, adding that his wife is one of the best quilters in the area. Together they enjoy trailer camping. They frequently visit family in the Carolinas and have also made trips to the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone and Mount Rushmore.

At home they enjoy peaceful evenings on their acre and a half property with their yellow lab, Joe and their rat terrier, Daisy. Albright also passes the time rebuilding a

1985 pick-up truck he salvaged from a lot in North Carolina and towed home.

And every chance he gets, he’ll join friends, family and relatives playing music. Since the age of 12, Albright has played guitar and later took up mandolin. Over the years he’s played for festival crowds numbering thousands and also for church congregations. He often plays senior centers and sometimes just for fun with his cousins – everything from rock and roll to blue grass.

“I’m never bored,” said Albright. “I love life and I plan to live a lot more of it.”

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