‘Ms. Punkin’ also revered Henderson County Schools bus driver for 51 years
Media: The following news feature on the death of Bivian Hancock was written by Jennie Rees, communications specialist for the Kentucky HBPA as well as Ellis Park’s publicity director for live racing. Photo of Bivian Hancock courtesy her family. For more information, contact Rees at email@example.com
For immediate release
HENDERSON, Ky. (Friday, January 13, 2017) — Bivian Bee Hancock, the matriarch of a prominent western Kentucky horse family and a revered school-bus driver, died Thursday evening at Methodist Hospital. She was 80.
Affectionately known as “Ms. Punkin,” Mrs. Hancock was the daughter of the late Chester Loney, a thoroughbred trainer who raced at Ellis Park and throughout Kentucky from the 1950s and into the 1970s, with other family members involved in harness racing. She owned racehorses for years, trained by her sons John Hancock and Jack Hancock Sr.
“She was a big part of everything we did,” John Hancock said Friday. “Everything ran through her. She was kind of my assistant, but she was a horse owner. She’d buy horses and I trained for her, and we partnered on horses. She and my brother Jack were a big part of my outfit, and then Jack went out on his own.”
While prominent at the racetrack, in particular at her hometown track of Ellis Park, Mrs. Hancock also was well-known in a different capacity in the Henderson County Schools system, spending more than a half-century as a bus driver. Honored in May of 2015 by the school system for her 50 years of service, Mrs. Hancock drove one more year before retiring at age 79. That’s the longest documented tenure ever for a bus driver in the district, said Cindy Williams, Henderson County Schools’ public-relations officer.
“From a personal standpoint, Ms. Punkin was an incredible individual,” Williams said. “For her to give more than 50 years of service and dedication to our school system, that speaks volumes about the type of person she was. Every day she got on that school bus, she got on it with passion and commitment and dedication to our students, ensuring that they were transported to and from school and home in a safe manner. She will be greatly missed.”
“My mom had three loves in her life: Driving a school bus until she retired after 51 years,” John Hancock said. “She loved coming to the barn and loved coming to Riverside (training center) to watch horses train. She’d go with me when we ran horses when she was able. And my mom loved her family. She was very hands-on in anything her family did.”
Ms. Punkin had another distinction: rooting hard for both the University of Kentucky and University of Louisville basketball teams. “She was a big fan of the University of Kentucky, but she also was a big fan of Rick Pitino,” John Hancock said. “She might have watched U of L before, but she became a bigger fan with Pitino coaching.”
Visitation will be from 2-6 p.m. Central Sunday and 9-11:30 a.m. Monday at Tomblinson Funeral Home, 325 1st St. in Henderson, with a Funeral Mass at noon Monday at Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Church, 511 Second St. Burial will be in Fernwood Cemetery, 920 Madison St.
HCS Bus No. 37, which Mrs. Hancock drove for so long, will transport the pallbearers behind the hearse from the funeral home to the church and then on to the cemetery.
Hancock, born in Henderson, was preceded in death by her father and mother, Lena Mae Loney; husband Delvin O. Hancock Sr. and brother Rex Loney. Survivors include another son, Delvin O. Hancock; brother Phillip Don Loney; and sisters Beatrice Stanley and Ann Marie Beckman (both also former Henderson school bus drivers), all of Henderson.
The family’s racing legacy continues into a fifth generation with John and Donna Hancock’s daughter, Ashley Hillyard, an owner and trainer, and with her 10-year-old son Matthew already playing an important role in his grandparents’ stable.