TOMPKINS COUNTY, N.Y.—Tompkins Consolidated Area Transit (TCAT) announced that the family of frequent local bus customer David “TCAT Dave” Barber has dedicated a bus stop and shelter in his name, ensuring that his love and knowledge of public transit would be memorialized. The bus stop sits outside of the Caroline Town Hall, near Dave’s residence.

Barber, who passed away in 2019, acquired his nickname from TCAT staffers who realized how deeply he knew the ins and outs of the times, routes and stops along the bus system’s various paths throughout the county, even occasionally helping out TCAT employees who had just started the job. The official dedication took place on April 13, delayed due to COVID-19, with four generations of Barber’s family in attendance.

“Let’s say you were a new-to-town TCAT rider and were not sure if you were on the right bus?” read TCAT’s announcement of the Barber memorial. “Or that you were a new bus driver trying to figure out the quirks of a certain route? Rest assured, you would have been in luck if David Barber of Caroline were on board with you. He’d have likely sensed your discomfort and would have been right by your side easing your worries by telling you how to get to your destination.”

During the ceremony, TCAT board member Frank Proto deemed Barber “TCAT’s first ambassador.”

After 35 years of riding, Barber died at age 64, “leaving a vacancy in TCAT buses and in the hearts of many of his fellow travelers.” Barber’s family decided that the best way to memorialize him was to donate $4,000 to TCAT and, guided by TCAT Assistant General Manager Mike Smith, dedicate a bus shelter in his name outside of Caroline Town Hall. After collaboration between Smith, Barber’s family and Town of Caroline officials, a new landing pad for the bus shelter has been installed and its surroundings revitalized.

Those surroundings include a plaque written by Dave’s niece Cara Nichols which says “In memory of ‘TCAT Dave’ (David Barber 1955-2019) whose kindness and spirit brightened the lives of so many along life’s route.”

“No matter how gloomy the weather or his persistent health issues, Dave always had a smile and was truly interested in everyone,” said Don Barber, Dave’s brother. “TCAT riders and drivers alike were the daily beneficiaries. And Dave loved TCAT, it was his connector to Tompkins County.”

Smith told an anecdote about when he first came to meet “TCAT Dave:” he’d actually known Barber for years after working at now-defunct downtown newsstand Mayer’s, but didn’t know who other TCAT workers were referring to by the moniker. Then one day Smith got on a bus and had his sunglasses snatched from off his head—only to turn around and see Barber as the culprit, who said “So, you are working here too?”

“To this day, when I pass by a long stretch of mailboxes on Slaterville Road, I can see him standing there waving,” Smith said. “Now, we also have this shelter to remember him by.”

Matt Butler

Matt Butler is the Education & Public Health Reporter at the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached by email at mbutler@ithacavoice.com