Obituary: William L. Roenigk Jr. / Owner of large school bus company

June 14, 1955 - March 2, 2013

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If a parent wanted to vent or chew him out, that was all right with William L. Roenigk Jr., who received his share of complaints as operator of one of the nation's biggest school bus companies.

More than anything, he told his wife, Monica, callers "want for you to understand how they feel."

"I learned a lot from him about that kind of thing," said Mrs. Roenigk, who works for the company.

Mr. Roenigk, 57, of Washington's Landing -- who, as president of W.L. Roenigk Inc., was responsible for getting thousands of children to and from school each day -- died of leukemia Saturday in UPMC Shadyside.

A recent stem cell transplant was unable to save his life, Mrs. Roenigk said.

Mr. Roenigk was born June 14, 1955, in Harrison, a son of Jeanne Korbeck Roenigk and the late William L. Roenigk Sr. The younger Mr. Roenigk graduated from Freeport High School in 1973 and went to work at the company his father founded.

By the time Mr. Roenigk Sr. died in 1991, the company, based in Buffalo Township, had purchased its 500th vehicle. Today, the company is numbering vehicles in the 2,400s, a testament, Mrs. Roenigk said, to the company's growth under her husband.

The company is described as the 10th-largest school bus fleet in the nation, serving 26 school districts in Western Pennsylvania. Mrs. Roenigk said the company supports several branches of the Roenigk clan.

Tom McCracken, manager of the company terminal in Allegheny Township, said Mr. Roenigk was a big reason he has stayed with the company for 35 years.

"All I can say is, I believed in him," Mr. McCracken said.

Although the company sometimes made the news when buses were involved in accidents or children were left behind on vehicles, safety always has been a top priority, said Mrs. Roenigk, employee Valerie Baker and Selina Pittenger, executive director of Pennsylvania School Bus Association. Mr. Roenigk was association president from 2008 to 2010, Ms. Pittenger said.

In 2004, when officials expressed concern about Homewood elementary students walking to school because of escalating violence in the neighborhood, W.L. Roenigk was one of eight bus companies that volunteered to drive the students for free.

Mr. Roenigk believed that he was making "a significant contribution to the education of schoolchildren, getting them to and from school safely," Ms. Pittenger said.

Mrs. Roenigk said she and her husband were introduced by one of his former girlfriends. They married in 1977 and made the Natrona Heights area their home.

A few months ago, however, Mr. Roenigk returned from a visit to Washington's Landing and told his wife he had "house envy." The couple promptly bought a home there.

In addition to his wife and mother, Mr. Roenigk is survived by a daughter, Casey L. Silverman of Buffalo; a granddaughter; and 11 siblings.

Friends will be received from 6 to 8 p.m. today and 2 to 4 and 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday in Duster Funeral Home, 10th Avenue at Corbet Street, Tarentum, where services will be held at 10 a.m. Friday. Memorials can be made to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

obituaries

Joe Smydo: jsmydo@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1548.


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