Behind a soft voice, lies a big heart
To help bring awareness to the great drivers on the road, Drivewyze launched a contest to celebrate drivers for National Truck Driver Appreciation Week. After the nomination process, Drivewyze selected eight finalists, and while all of the finalists represent the road well, no one stood out more than Ohio-native Gary Wolke.
To Gary, driving a truck meant everything to him. Even after receiving the news that he had been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (M.S.) in 2009, Gary willed himself to continue driving until he physically could no longer pass his CDL in 2012, — driving is what he loved doing. While the disease took away his ability to drive, it hasn’t taken away his passion for the trucking industry, and it never will.
Even though it’s been six years since Gary has been behind the wheel of a big-rig, Gary’s deep and devoted ties to the industry remain strong.
Gary, a driver for B & K Trucking in Ohio for 35 years, regularly visits the company to catch up with the folks he worked with. “I usually go back every couple of weeks to check in with the guys,” said Gary. “The company has been a big part of my life— I started working for B & K when I was 20 years-old and it’s the only company I’ve ever driven for, so I’ve developed a close relationship with them over the years.”
Gary would drive a dump truck for B & K, delivering material such as asphalt, stone, scrap metal, and other material that would be used on construction sites. Each day was different, calling for a new load or new location to deliver to…something Gary loved about the work he was doing.
“I liked driving the truck, but I also enjoyed traveling short distances so that I could be home every night,” said Gary. “I’d often go to familiar locations, but I would constantly meet new people every day which made it fun. No day was like the previous day.”
Gary’s wife, Teresa Wolke, would often accompany him on the road while he made the deliveries.
“He loved being out on the road,” said Teresa. “He had a great sense of direction and awareness, which is just the bare-bones of what made Gary such a great driver.”
During his tenure at B & K, Gary became quite the commodity to the company. Early on in his career at B & K, the owner of the company taught him how to service the trucks in the fleet.
“One day at work I was brought in to help work on a truck that needed to be serviced,” said Gary. “He gave me a few books to help me learn more about how to work on diesel engines and before I knew it, I was working on trucks by myself.”
As a jack-of-all-trades, Gary quickly became the go-to driver for assistance, helping out other drivers if their trucks broke down. Gary would oftentimes be called in to help service other company’s trucks if they needed extra help getting a truck back out on the road. When called upon, Gary was there.
As an integral part of B & K’s operation, Gary would often be sent on shorter delivers, that way he could make it back before the end of the work day in case a truck needed to be serviced. During the winter months, when construction work would come to a halt, Gary would work full-time in the shop, making sure the trucks would be in tip-top shape to hit the road when construction projects would ramp up in the spring and summer.
Though servicing trucks became a big part of his work-load at B & K, Gary’s love for the road stayed the same.
“I’m not able to do the things I used to anymore,” said Gary. “M.S. affects everyone a little differently. For me, it’s really affected the movement in my legs. I miss driving and I wish I could still be out there. To be honest, I was totally surprised to find out that my wife Teresa nominated me for the Drivewyze contest and that I had won.”
Gary’s passion and willingness to be a team-player on the road exemplifies what it means to be a truck driver, and Drivewyze is honored to recognize him as this year’s winner of the Truck Driver Appreciation Week contest.
“There are a lot of good and hard-working people in the trucking industry, and I’m glad the Truck Driver Appreciation Week contest brings light to that,” concluded Gary. As for the Cabela’s gift cards my wife and I will be receiving — I’m not sure how they’ll be spent, but I’m sure my wife has some ideas.”