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Hardworking hero, longtime bus driver Ervin 'Erv' Blom dies at 77

Longtime bus driver, Eckles Township board member and logger Ervin “Erv” Blom was never a Cadillac kind of man.

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Ervin Blom stands in front of his truck at a truck pull event during the Clearwater County Fair in August 2015. Contributed

BEMIDJI -- Longtime bus driver, Eckles Township board member and logger Ervin Blom was never a Cadillac kind of man.

Affectionately known by many as Erv, he was not concerned with having the newest trucks or accessories. His biggest passion was working hard and instilling that into his own family.

Blom died on Saturday, Oct. 23, after ongoing health issues , leaving behind his wife of almost 50 years, Bonnie; two daughters, Ronda and Nickie; seven grandchildren, four great-grandchildren and many more extended family members and friends.

“He was the hardest working man I ever knew,” daughter Ronda Bohlman said. “In all 44 years of my life, I never saw him with spotless hands.”

Erv, born in November 1943, grew up in Bemidji and attended Eurgan School in Eckles Township. He later graduated from Bemidji High School in 1962, before attending trade school in Wadena where he took up welding.

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Only ever buying things to make a living, he started driving buses for the Bemidji school district and other community busing services after graduating from high school. At that point, his dad Robert “Bob” owned Blom’s Bus Service.

Following Bob’s retirement in 1978, Erv continued the family business driving three separate routes for Bemidji Area Schools.

Over the years, he drove the original 81, 82, 83 and 84 routes for Eckles Township and Solway, though they were changed to 181, 182, 183 and 184 by the end of his driving days. But the bus he drove every day was 182.

“Dad drove from the age of 18 or 19 until Tuesday evening,” Bohlman detailed regarding Erv’s final bus route on Oct. 19.

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Longtime bus driver and Eckles Township board member Ervin "Erv" Blom died on Saturday, Oct. 23. Contributed

Erv started having heart troubles around seven years ago, though he never was a fan of going to the hospital. When taken to the hospital for surgery in Fargo, the only place he was willing to stay was a truck stop.

Though he later developed kidney problems, his work ethic never dwindled in the face of health issues.

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He continued driving buses including driving children to the Concordia Language Villages , busing attendees back and forth from President Trump’s Bemidji campaign visit in September 2020 and taking a class of fifth-graders to the Soudan Underground Mine.

He even earned a lifetime service award from the Minnesota Association for Pupil Transportation in his 57th year as a driver.

Being neighbors with Erv his entire life, Eckles Township Road Supervisor Cory Wilson took Erv’s route during his school days. In fact, Erv also drove for Wilson's father and his daughters.

Well-known and respected

Erv served on the Eckles Township Board for 43 years, serving as chairman and supervisor before retiring from his role in 2016.

Serving side-by-side, Wilson detailed Erv’s advocacy for the Eckles Community Center, for which he and his wife Bonnie donated much of the land and lumber to build.

“The hours of time it took to get it built has been a big part of the last 20 years as a township,” Wilson said. “That was definitely a project Erv cared about greatly.”

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Ervin Blom, center, is pictured at his retirement from the Eckles Township Board after serving more than 40 years as a board member. Contributed

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Also assisting with road supervision, Erv worked tirelessly no matter what the elements were.

“Around the Fourth of July, when we had that big storm a couple of years ago, he’d be out clearing and loading trees off the road all day,” Wilson said. “Roads are (the township’s) biggest expense, so back when we had very little money, he’d be out helping to build roads with whoever the contractor was.”

The board supervisors would also do road reviews to determine areas of improvement, for which Erv drove everyone around in one of his buses.

“He would drive his school bus so everyone could be in the same vehicle to discuss what everyone was seeing,” board clerk Mary Lou Milender said. “He was always there for us.”

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Ervin Blom, left, leads a group of volunteers to perform maintenance at the Eckles Cemetery. This was one of many ways Blom spent time volunteering. The entrance gates at the cemetery were built, painted and installed by Blom as well. Contributed

His many years in the area helped him become a person that most people knew and remembered no matter how long it had been since they last saw or talked to him.

When bringing her daughter Justice to an oral surgeon, Bohlman mentioned that another woman in the waiting area said she knew who Bohlman was because of Erv.

The woman detailed a story where Erv called her parents after getting caught smoking at a “Smoker’s Corner” as a teen. She credited Erv for making that call that saved her life and got her on the right path.

“Back in the day, when he needed to straighten out someone’s attitude, he wouldn’t kick you off the bus,” Bohlman said. “He would call the parents and gain their respect.”

Though described as having a bit of a temper and being a fast-talker, Bohlman emphasized her father's heart of gold. She admitted to picking up her dad's attitude as evidenced by her and sister Nickie fighting as children, which granted Bohlman the nickname, "Little Erv."

Bohlman also detailed her dad’s interactions with Bohlman’s late husband Lance. “They were side by side every day. They logged together, they were inseparable and it was truly a father-son relationship,” she said.

Lance grew closer to Erv after Lance’s father Leroy passed away in 1999. She said that Lance became the third child in a way.

After Lance died in a logging accident in 2011, she said Erv took charge of the funeral planning and being one of the casket bearers had him carrying “one of the heaviest and hardest loads to carry.”

Lance’s funeral was the first one at the Eckles Community Center with Erv picking this same location as a way to honor Lance.

“Dad told me, ‘If I die, I want to be in my truck or in the woods,'" Bohlman said. “He’ll be going out on the bed of a truck for his last ride.”

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Ervin Blom is pictured at a logging show in Grand Rapids in September 2018. Contributed

Jack of all trades

When not driving buses, serving on the board or hauling wood in Red Lake and elsewhere, Erv kept busy with many other projects and hobbies.

The numerous pets and farm animals the Blom family had were described as the love of Erv’s life. He loved his cattle and would take time to talk to them and scratch their backs. Even after being attacked by a black Angus bull, he did not go to a hospital and opted to just let himself heal while continuing to make his rounds. His family also had dogs, pigs and horses.

Erv constructed some interesting gadgets, as well, including a dryer that runs off of running water. The family wanted him to patent this but said he never got around to it.

Erv wasn’t too avid about out-of-state travel, though the family visited Yellowstone National Park for the first time during the summer of 2020. The seven-day trip also included visits to Idaho and Washington.

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Ervin Blom stands in front of his truck at a truck pull event during the Clearwater County Fair in August 2015. Contributed

He also served in the National Guard for six years and narrowly missed being sent to fight in Vietnam.

He kept busy with countless other projects and endeavors throughout his 77 years, and the lives he touched were many.

Describing him the best way she knew how, Bohlman is confident that “he was my hero, and though my hero has left, I have gained a legend.”

A visitation will be held from 5 to 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 3, and the funeral will take place at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday, Nov. 4, with a one hour visitation held beforehand, both at the Eckles Community Center.

Related Topics: BEMIDJI AREA SCHOOLS
Daltyn Lofstrom is a reporter at the Bemidji Pioneer focusing on education and community stories.
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