Marlan Keith Rohlena, the retired owner and president of Western Bus Sales, passed away on Aug. 24 surrounded by his family. He was 81.
The Oregon Pupil Transportation Association announced his death in a newsletter on Monday. Rohlena was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease more than 15 years ago.
He is survived by Barbara, his wife of nearly 60 years and steadfast caregiver; daughters Sarah Jones and Mollie Blagg; granddaughter Kaycee Honey, five great-grandchildren; brothers Larry and Ron; and nieces, nephews, extended family, and friends.
Marlan and Barbara Rohlena met in eighth grade while attending a one-room schoolhouse. They both graduated from Prairie High School in Cedar Rapids, Iowa and the University of Iowa. They married in 1962. A year later, Marlan was drafted into the U.S. Air Force. He was based in New Jersey before serving in the Vietnam War as an air transportation supervisor. He was later stationed in Germany. Following his honorable discharge, the Rohlena family moved to Oregon, which started Marlan’s career in pupil transportation.
In Gresham, Oregon, Marlan Rohlena accepted a position at School Bus Services, a school bus contractor at the time. He eventually went to work for Western Bus Sales, the Blue Bird school bus dealer in Oregon. With family support, the Rohlena’s purchased Western Bus Sales in 1988 and moved the company to Clackamas, Oregon. There were only three employees at the time.
“Through hard work, determination, mistakes, and sometimes pure luck, the company eventually outgrew that facility and moved to the current location in Boring, Oregon,” OPTA stated.
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Rohlena retired from the Western Bus Sales in 2008 but remained passionately involved in the school transportation industry. His daughters both work at the company, with Mollie serving as president and Sarah as director of sales. Colby Blagg, Mollie’s husband of 21 years, started with the company in the shop and is now the director of operations.
Western Bus Sales was named Blue Bird Dealer of the Year in 2012.
A celebration of life is scheduled for Oct. 21 at Gresham United Methodist Church. Donations can be made in Rohlena’s name to Parkinson’s Resources of Oregon.