A Tribute to Bill Luke for the CTHF:
William A. (Bill) Luke, Public Transportation Historian Par Excellence
The Canadian Transit Heritage Foundation and the public transportation world at large is saddened by the passing of one of the industry’s leading historians and experts, Bill Luke on January 23rd. He left his mark in many ways through his involvement, teaching and publications in the public transportation industry.
Born in Duluth, Minnesota and raised in Virginia, Minnesota, Bill Luke grew up in the heart of the mid-west’s iron range. During World War II, Bill served with the 336th Engineer Combat Battalion of the U.S. Army landing on June 6, 1944 at Omaha Beach. As part of the D-Day Allied liberation forces, his unit made it all the way to central Germany. After the war, Bill returned home and in 1948 began his career in the bus industry working for Minneapolis-based Jefferson Bus Lines serving as director of schedules. He worked at Jefferson Lines for just over twenty years.
In 1953, he married his college sweetheart Adelene and together in 1965 they established a trade journal called “Bus Ride Magazine” focusing on the bus and coach industry.
In the late 1960s, Bill and fellow bus historian Paul Leger of Halifax, NS, started the Bus History Association (BHA). The BHA, dedicated to the preservation and history of the bus industry, is still around today and has just under 300 members worldwide.
Bill and Adelene moved westward to Spokane in 1969 when Bill joined Empire Lines as assistant manager, a position he held for five years. Then in 1975 they incorporated Friendship Publications to continue publishing Bus Ride magazine while coordinating bus maintenance forums and workshops across North America. One of the forums, the Ontario Bus Maintenance Forum was held at the Constellation Hotel near the Toronto Airport on April 29, 1981. Bill had arranged for the group to visit Ontario Bus Industries in Mississauga. A Brampton Transit GMC New Look was used to take the group to OBI where delegates saw one of the first Orion 1 buses produced with a wheelchair lift. The traditional one piece door of the Orion was replaced with a split door to accommodate the lift. The bus would be delivered to the Southeastern Michigan Transit Authority (SEMTA) in Port Huron, MI.
After selling Friendship Publications in 1996, Bill took to writing books about the industry. He authored many volumes that ranged from pictorial histories of the major bus and coach manufacturers like General Motors, New Flyer, Prevost and Motor Coach Industries to detailed histories of the many operating carriers like Greyhound and Trailways.
Together with Adelene, Bill travelled extensively throughout the United States, Canada and the around the world. He loved to explore and ride public transit and bus systems across the globe, documenting and photographing his new experiences while making new friends everywhere he went.
The American Public Transit Association (APTA) recognized Bill’s many years of service to the industry by inducting him into its Hall of Fame in 1998.
Bill, predeceased by his wife Adelene, lived in north Spokane at a retirement home. He was 97 years old.
Rest in Peace.