McCrabb: Church community responds to shocking death of bus driver

A sign and flowers were dropped off at Middletown Transmission, the business that Archie Cheesman owned on Crawford Street. Cheesman died from injuries sustained in a two-vehicle crash Feb. 2 while driving a bus for the Franklin First Church of God. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

The death of a church bus driver impacted more than his family and home church members.

When Archie Cheesman, 59, bus captain at Franklin Church of God, was killed earlier this month in a two-vehicle crash, it showed the resolve of the church community.

Since the Franklin Church of God and the funeral home were too small to host the expected large gathering for Cheesman’s visitation and funeral service, Towne Church, a sister church to Franklin Church, hosted the services and provided a hospitality room with food and drinks for the family. Berachah Church in Middletown prepared the meal that was served after the funeral.

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Pastor Mark Jackson from Towne Church estimated nearly 400 people attended the funeral, and Pastor Lamar Ferrell from Berachah said about 140 people were fed after the funeral. Another 25 box lunches were prepared and delivered to those children and adults who typically ride on Cheesman’s bus.

On Feb. 2, Cheesman was driving the 2003 Bluebird Bus when he was killed in a two-vehicle crash at Dixie Highway and Manchester Road in Franklin Twp. The driver of the other vehicle was treated for minor injuries. The cause of the crash is listed as “unknown,” according to the Ohio State Highway Patrol.

The Warren County Coroner’s Office said Cheesman’s death was caused by blunt force trauma.

Cheesman owned and operated Middletown Transmission, where he started working at age 16. Besides driving the church bus, he volunteered at Serving Homeless Alternate Lodging Of Middletown (SHALOM), helped with the men’s fellowship breakfast and was a sixth- to eighth-grade youth leader.

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News of the Sunday morning fatal crash spread quickly through local churches. Jackson said he announced at the and of church services that there was a serious crash involving a church bus. His congregation was stunned.

“You could tell by peoples’ reactions that they were heartbroken,” he said. “When something bad happens at one church, it affects all churches. Church should be a safe place and whether it’s an accident or a shooting, or any type of negative, you feel for the other churches. You realize, ‘Wow, that could happen here.’”

As the crash happened, Ferrell was preparing to deliver his Super Sunday service that addressed a 24-month financial commitment to the church. He was informed about the accident and quickly sent staff members to the scene. Pastor Jimmy Tinch Sr. used a Berachah van to transport some of those on the bus to Franklin Church.

Ferrell told his congregation about Cheesman’s death and compared it to the sudden death of NBA star Kobe Bryant, who, along with eight others, was killed in a helicopter crash.

“The world will not know about Archie Cheesman who was picking up kids and taking them to church,” Ferrell said.

After the service, Ferrell drove to the crash scene and took a photo of Duke Energy workers repairing an utility pole that resembled a cross. Ferrell tweeted that he was “saddened to hear news this morning about a faithful servant of God” being killed. He ended his tweet with a hashtag: TheCrossSaysItAll.

The day after the crash, Ferrell called Franklin Church of God to offer to host the visitation and funeral. When told Towne Church was hosting, Ferrell offered to feed those after the funeral.

“We are always looking for those who are hurting,” he said. “I can’t imagine what they’re going through. It could have been us. It was the least we could do.”

Bill Fugate, volunteer coordinator at SHALOM, noted the efforts of the two churches.

“This was a tremendous expression of unity by our communities’ churches and was greatly appreciated by those who knew and loved Archie Cheesman,” he said. “The outpouring of love, affection and appreciation for Archie are nearly indescribable.”

Ferrell was asked why churches with different names and even different philosophies come to the assistance of other churches.

“At the end of the day, if God wins, we win,” he said. “We are on the same team. This is not a competition. This is a community.”

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