Dr. Cal LeMon, a 2007 STN EXPO conference keynote speaker, died on Dec. 28 of complications from Type A influenza. He was 77.
LeMon rose to prominence in the industry after keynoting a California Association of School Transportation Officials conference in the mid-1990s. As recounted in his 1998 book, “Unreported Miracles: What You Probably Do Not Know About Your Child’s School Bus,” CASTO officials asked LeMon for his assistance in developing a public awareness campaign to call attention to how reduced state funding for transportation was flying in the face of yellow school bus benefits. LeMon was told school districts were responding by extending walk zones to as long as five miles, implementing unregulated van service, or eliminating general education transportation, altogether.
Already an accomplished author, consultant and theologian — he served as a chaplain of Harvard University and pastored churches — LeMon wrote that he had an epiphany of sorts and saw school bus advocacy as a “monument building” exercise in his later years that would “scream Cal LeMon was here!”
In addition to writing “Unreported Miracles,” LeMon developed in partnership with the Kern County Office of Education “Stop in the Name of Love,” a video and accompanying brochures on school bus safety that discusses the various federal motor vehicle safety standards, compartmentalization of high seatbacks, illegal passing and more.
For the next several decades, LeMon traveled the country speaking to student transportation professionals, including those at the 2007 STN EXPO Reno. That same year, he co-authored an employee motivation survey for School Transportation News in advance of his keynote that summer. He also wrote the leadership column “LeMon Aid” for the magazine. LeMon also wrote a half-dozen other books on executive management, leadership and faith and contributed to many others. He wrote numerous opinion columns for USA Today as well as produced and hosted two television shows in Boston, Massachusetts.
LeMon keynoted for the National Association for Pupil Transportation in 2014 and last spoke at CASTO at its 50th Annual State Conference in 2018. But unknown to everyone during this time, he was living with early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.
That was especially hard for the electric speaker and author to come to grips with, Kathy added, as the medication he took affected his receptive and expressive vocabulary.
“That was his strength in life,” Kathy told STN. “He was a talker. He was a wordsmith. He was able to take words and just craft them in such a way that people were mesmerized.”
Cal LeMon did remain in good physical health with a fairly good quality of life in his final years, Kathy said, adding that he wrote one final book, “Altar Egos: Building Trust, Openness and Truth in the Church” in 2018. However, this past Thanksgiving he got the flu and went into respiratory failure. He was admitted to the hospital and was put on a ventilator.
Kathy said Cal was able to come home and be with family in Springfield, Missouri, before making the decision on Christmas Eve to go into hospice care.
“He was able to tell me about a dream that he had that was very special,” Kathy relayed. “He said it was the family, we were all sitting together, and he was standing in front of a white porcelain door. And for us in our faith, we believe that was his passing. So I said to him, ‘Cal, you know, when you’re ready to walk through that door, and when God’s ready to have you, we are here. We will let you go.’
“His death at that point was actually a gift to him because he hated being in a body where he couldn’t verbalize and think. And it was a gift to us.”
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Cal LeMon was born on Dec. 7, 1945. He is survived by wife of 55 years Kathy; daughters Dr. Daphne Ondr (Jeff) and Nikki (Mike) Miroslaw; grandchildren Nick, Zachary, Barrett, Liam, Max, Pete, and Helen; and Shih Tzu companion Hippocrates Lambchop.
He attended Evangel College and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Hamilton, Massachusetts, followed by Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California for his doctorate in ministry. He served as a chaplain at Harvard University and pastored churches in Cambridge, Massachusetts as well as Springfield, Missouri.
He transitioned into corporate training with National Seminars in 1987 followed by starting his own consulting firm, Executive Enrichment.