Faithful rider celebrates 80th birthday at party on Metro bus

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Bee Dyer rides Metro Transit buses so often she has memorized dozens of route schedules.

The Lake City woman takes Metro to her doctor's appointments at Evergreen Hospital Medical Center in Kirkland, to her volunteer work at Northwest Hospital in Seattle and to visit a cousin in Kent. She frequently rides as many as six buses in one day.

But Dyer missed her home stop yesterday.

Metro Transit and Dyer's family threw a surprise 80th birthday party on the Route 65 bus. The guests included King County Executive Ron Sims and Metro General Manager Rick Walsh.

She guessed something was happening when her son, sister, brother, sister-in-law and two adult granddaughters showed up at her bus stop when she was leaving University Village.

"I don't know what you're up to but it had better not be a stripper," she said.

Ten blocks before her stop, Sims led a parade of celebrants onto the articulated bus. Her favorite driver, Gregory Nash, carried the cake.

Metro leaders learned about Dyer's loyalty when her granddaughter, Jahna Dyer, wrote a letter to thank them for taking such good care of her grandmother.

Sims and Walsh presented Dyer with flowers, a certificate, Metro commuter mug, umbrella and an insulated lunch bag. Metro's uniform supplier threw in a green Metro cardigan sweater.

Nash teased her that with the sweater she could become a bus driver.

No way, she said.

Dyer depends upon Metro because she has never had a driver's license.

"My father and my brother tried to teach me how to drive," Dyer said. "They laughed at me when I made a mistake, and I quit. I never did learn."

She started her transit-riding when she was 5. Her father was a Seattle streetcar operator. Dyer would carry his lunch from the family home on Phinney Ridge to meet him at the end of the line - then at North 85th Street and Greenwood Avenue North.

"It only cost a nickel to ride," she said. "I still have tokens from then."

As an adult, she rode the bus to beauty school, to work at the telephone company and when she became a keypunch operator.

She proudly carries her annual pass - at $45 a bargain for senior citizens, she said.

Dyer and Joe Trautmann, the Metro driver who chauffeured the rolling birthday party, agreed on one thing: Her party, even with Metro officials, Sims and the media, was quieter than afternoon high-school runs.

"That's the only downside to Metro," she said.

But whenever Dyer finds the bus is too noisy, she merely gets off.

"I just wait for the next bus. There's always another bus coming."

Sherry Grindeland can be reached at 206-515-5633 or sgrindeland@seattletimes.com.