Thomas Truex harbored a simple ambition, his relatives said: to treat the Earth kindly enough that no one would notice when he left it.
Mr. Truex's route. His body was discovered in his bus, which had been idling, unchecked, for hours at the Port Authority Bus Terminal.
“He wanted to leave no footprint,” his nephew William Wendt Jr. said.
Mr. Truex nearly got his wish.
Many people may know Mr. Truex, not by name, but by the strange circumstances of his death: He was the driver who died in his bus on Thursday at the Port Authority Bus Terminal while the vehicle idled for hours in the heart of one of the busiest transit hubs in one of the busiest cities in the world, without anyone noticing until the midafternoon. He was 59.
If mystery shrouds Mr. Truex’s death, the story of his life remains similarly elusive. Since he died, both Mr. Truex’s immediate family and transit officials have said precious little, leaving a series of apparent paradoxes unaddressed:
How does a man with what friends described as a keen devotion to the environment endure 26 years spewing fumes across northern New Jersey for a living?
How can a driver idle, deceased at some point, from the end of the morning rush to the beginning of the evening rush without attracting any attention?
And why did a man whom friends and co-workers described in typical terms — quiet, gracious, respectful — serve a suspension last year after appearing surly and slothful in a rider’s video aboard a bus?
The second question probably explains New Jersey Transit’s refusal to discuss the incident in great detail. The third may lend perspective to the family’s reticence.
Born and raised in Jersey City, part American Indian, Mr. Truex had lived in Edison, N.J., with his wife, June, for the past 18 years in a home with a front yard so well groomed it made neighbors jealous.
“That’s the Native American side,” Mr. Wendt said of his uncle on Monday night, puffing on a cigarette outside the Allwood Funeral Home in Clifton, N.J., where mourners gathered on Tuesday for Mr. Truex’s funeral. “It was about respecting his land.”
Co-workers recalled Mr. Truex’s eagerness to discuss current events he read about in the tabloids left behind by passengers. Friends and family spoke, briefly, of a spiritual man, a loving husband and a proud father of two.
But public exposure to Mr. Truex’s life has been limited to two events: his curious death and his odd on-camera behavior last November. (The medical examiner’s office said Mr. Truex, who had heart disease, died of natural causes.)
His neighbor Harshad Patel said Mr. Truex occasionally complained about irksome passengers, but Mr. Patel was not aware of the incident captured on video, which, according to The Star-Ledger, resulted in Mr. Truex’s suspension without pay.
In the clip, first published on the Web site of The Star-Ledger last year, a man identified as Mr. Truex is seen behind the wheel, slumped in his seat, with a black hat pulled close to his eyes. A passenger, recording with his iPhone, captured Mr. Truex steering the bus improperly, at times flicking at the wheel with only the tips of his fingers.
At one point — after passengers, according to The Star-Ledger, informed Mr. Truex he was going in the wrong direction — Mr. Truex appeared to lean back in his seat and stretch one leg across the steering wheel.
Reached for comment this week, friends knew, or said, nothing of the incident. A sampling of riders on his regular route did not recall the man, though some had heard about his death at the bus terminal. On the day he died, Mr. Truex drove a less familiar route, from Secaucus to Midtown, according to a representative from the Amalgamated Transit Union.
Most of the time, said the union official, Mr. Truex drove the morning shift between Jersey City and Hackensack. Though the New York skyline comes into view near North Bergen, most of the visuals Mr. Truex would have encountered on a typical workday could have been lifted from a coffee-table book of suburban Americana: flags casting shadows on a home’s crumbling brick steps; the golden dirt of a recently manicured baseball diamond; a flower shop and a community garden, drawing eyes away from the mass of “For Lease” signs littering storefront windows; a funeral home.
Fellow drivers spoke of a man who went about his business dispassionately. He interacted sparingly with co-workers at the Meadowlands garage where the buses are housed.
“He came to do his job,” said Pablo Gonzalez, another driver, “and went home to his family.”
Mr. Patel, who described himself as Mr. Truex’s best friend on the block, said he did not know what the man’s interests were, besides tending to his yard.
June Truex knocked on Mr. Patel’s door last week, he added, to inform him of her husband’s death. She wanted to tell him how much her husband had enjoyed his company.
“He was a pretty nice fellow,” Mr. Patel said, pausing a beat. “He’s just a bus driver.”
Thomas Truex, Driver Found Dead in Bus, Is Buried - NYTimes.com