When Lawrence H. Pierce turned 21, his father gave him a big present: his own school bus company to run.
Pierce would serve as president of Pierce Coach Line for 64 years and become a respected advocate for bus safety.
Pierce, 85, of Port Washington, who was also president of two school transportation groups, died Oct. 4 at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset from complications of a stroke. He still ran Pierce Coach, working part time, until he was hospitalized in September, said son Troy, the company's director of operations.
Born in Long Branch, N.J., Lawrence Pierce moved with his family to Woodmere and then Lawrence, where he graduated from Lawrence High School. He completed a two-year Air Force aviation cadet training program in Florida and Colorado during the Korean War and then returned to New York in 1951 to attend night classes at what was then Hofstra College.
He was the son of Forrester W. "Pop" Pierce, who in 1918 created Pierce Country Day Camp, the first such camp in America, which remains in operation in Roslyn. The elder Pierce also helped create Independent Coach Line before World War II. Pierce had gone to work for his father's bus operation full time in 1946. When his father two years later created Pierce Coach Line, he gave it to his son to run. He returned to the company after his aviation training.
Pierce served as president of the New York School Bus Contractors Association in 1967 and National School Transportation Association in 1977. He won top awards from both groups and in 1994 was inducted into the national organization's hall of fame.
He helped launch New York State's first school bus safety competition in 1972, which he called a "Road-e-o."
John Corr, the owner of Educational Bus Transportation of West Babylon, who led the state and national school bus contractors associations after Pierce, said, "He was always involved legislatively at the federal, state and local levels in trying to promote school bus safety and working within the industry for driver recognition, such as the school bus Road-e-os that are now a national event."
Besides his wife of 45 years and son Troy H., of Port Washington, Pierce is survived by stepson Michael A. laVilla, of Tampa, Fla., daughter Christina M. Hone, of Naples, Fla., and from a previous marriage, son Larry Jr., of Rhode Island, and daughters Robin Pierce, of eastern Long Island, and Laura Pierce, of Manhattan; and five grandchildren.
Burial was at Holy Rood Cemetery in Westbury after a service at St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church in Manhasset on Oct. 9.