At the suggestion of a Valley Transit Authority bus driver, a bench dedicated to the memory of William Ware has been installed at a bus stop near the intersection of California Street and Escuela Avenue -- at the site of the accident that took the Mountain View man's life last summer.
The bench, located on California Street at the southeast corner of the intersection, carries a plaque which reads "Forever in Our Hearts," and serves as a memorial of Ware's life and untimely death. A regular VTA rider, Ware was well-known to many drivers. He was hit and killed by a car as he waited at the bus stop on June 21, 2012.
The day after he drove by the accident, Rafael Jovel, a veteran Valley Transit Authority bus driver, heard Ware had been killed in the wreck. Jovel, who drives the Line 35 route between downtown Mountain View and the Stanford Shopping Center, said he had grown fond of Ware over the years, and was stunned to hear he had died.
"Drivers and passengers -- we just couldn't believe it," Jovel said. "We were really sad, mad at the circumstances. ... It wasn't the right time for him to go. It wasn't the right way for him to go."
Jovel was driving the Line 35 bus on that fateful morning in June, and was one of the first to pass by the grisly scene. He drove by the wreck, heading in the opposite direction, about two minutes after 21-year-old Matthew Pumar lost control of his car, jumped the curb and slammed into the 50-year-old Mountain View resident.
As the driver of the 35 Line -- which Ware rode at least once a week, according to his niece, Dolorez Marquez -- Jovel said he got to know Ware very well over the years.
"We meet some good people, some bad people, but Bill was in a class by himself," Jovel said of the late Ware. "He was a great person. He liked to help anybody and everybody."
According to Marquez, her uncle, who had special needs, would strike up a conversation with just about anyone. Ware, she said, especially enjoyed talking with police officers, firefighters and the bus drivers, who provided him with his primary means of transportation.
Jovel said Ware would go out of his way to help people, including the disabled and elderly, with loading groceries or bags on and off the bus. And while he never witnessed it directly, Jovel said he had heard stories of Ware -- an imposing figure with a booming voice -- standing up for bus operators and passengers who were being harassed by an unruly rider.
The Line 35 driver said he can't pass the bus stop at California and Escuela without thinking of his former passenger. So, one day, a few months back, Jovel told his boss it would be nice if they could do something to commemorate Ware.
"I thought it would be a nice memento -- just so people remember him," Jovel said.
The idea traveled up the chain of command at VTA and was ultimately approved by transit agency officials. Jovel is happy to see the VTA brass took up his suggestion. "That was very nice of VTA," the driver said.
Marquez said it was a bittersweet surprise to learn that the bench had been installed. She said she received word that the bench had been completed on what would have been her uncle's 51st birthday -- March 13.
"It's a nice way to honor him," Marquez said. "The VTA was his main source of transportation all of his life. He knew how to get anywhere on VTA. He knew his drivers and his drivers knew him."
Upon seeing the bench for the first time, Marquez said that she and the rest of her family experienced a mix of emotions. She was saddened to think about a life cut short, happy to see her uncle remembered -- and concerned by the speed of the vehicles passing by. "People just go very fast on that street, and there are so many people walking around," she observed.