Henderson County's bus-driving couple puts life in 'cruise control' every summer

At East Henderson High, Marqueta and Tom Laughter make the daily road trip for all the right reasons. (Photo credit: WLOS staff)

Where there's a wheel, there's a way to a dream vacation, which might explain why a Henderson County couple is in the driver's seat every school day.

At East Henderson High, Marqueta and Tom Laughter make the daily road trip for all the right reasons.

"We just like the school," Marqueta said.

"And also I like kids, too!" Tom added.

Each summer, they reward themselves for cruising mountain roads with students. They've parlayed their pay in an astounding 27 summer cruises together.

"We've been all over," Marqueta marveled.

They've been married more than 52 years, so they constantly finish each others sentences.

"We get up early every morning," they said in unison.

You could say it was love at first radio contact.

"I was talking to her aunt, and she said, 'I've got someone I want you to talk to,'" Tom recalled. "So, I started talking to her on the CB radio!"

Years later, their buses are the means to an end. Marqueta's been driving for 27 years. In 1998, she convinced her husband the electrician to get behind the wheel, too.

"Because I talked him into driving, I said, 'Yeah, we can use that extra money for vacations,'" Marqueta said.

That's the day they put their already happy lives into cruise control, barely missing a school day with their eyes on a summer prize.

"Our boss man, he can vouch for that," Tom said.

"Then we flew one year and went to Hawaii, but other than that it's been all cruises," Marqueta said.

Fueled by the extra paycheck from Tom's bus driving, they've become frequent floaters. So many cruises, they can't even remember all the destinations.

"I couldn't tell you all the places," Marqueta said. "I'd have to sit down and write'em down for you."

"We have a lot of fun together," she said about the joy of cruising.

"And resting," Tom said. "Forget about everything, especially the school bus."

"Now, we went for Christmas one year, and that's a no-no from here on out," he learned. "Too many kids."

The big exception to the no-kid rule is granddaughter Judy who's now an East Henderson junior. She's been with them on a dozen of trips.

"We get waited on, we don't have to do anything. They do everything for you," Marqueta said.

"And you eat 24 hours a day!" Tom explained.

They wind through mountain roads and make a combined 120 stops per day. That's pretty impressive considering Marqueta is 71 and Tom is 81. The payoff for a 4:30 wakeup time is paradise, which makes them hungry for more adventures.

"If you get out of there hungry, there's something wrong!" Tom said.

"Or you could do what I do, go to the casino!" Marqueta said. "I like to go play!"

This June they'll take their 28th cruise together-- this time in the Carribbean. As always, they plan to bring back a rum cake for their boss, assistant principal Doug Justice.

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