South Charlotte

Dream comes true in 18-wheeler's cab

Folks at Matthews Elementary say secretary Donna Huntley, 41, has a big heart and a reputation for making anything happen.

They recently turned the tables, and helped her fulfill an unusual life-long wish.

Huntley was “born and raised in the country, out in Midland,” she says. “I just loved and admired 18-wheeler trucks. I wasn't a baby-doll girl. So it became a dream to drive one.”

She eventually got a permit to drive a dump truck, but never pursued that career. She later earned a commercial driver's license in 1983, and drove a school bus for 10 years. Then she moved inside the school as a secretary, and also became a driver's education teacher with Jordan Driving School.

She recently mentioned her life-long fascination with large trucks in the office. Principal Dan Witt and Natalie Moore, school psychologist, decided to surprise her. They teamed up with former staff member Nancy Keziah, whose husband Eric sells trucks. He brought one to the school to surprise Huntley.

“My friend at work said I looked stressed and asked me to take a walk with her,” Huntley says. “The truck rounded the corner, and I started screaming. It took me 15 minutes to really calm down enough to drive that truck.”

It was an off-the-lot, brand new 18-wheeler. Bright blue, with chrome and 10 gears.

“This truck costs $115,000, it wasn't a beat-up clunkety clunk,” she says. “It even smelled good.”

She says she put it into gear and “dipped out good,” leaving the school's parking lot and driving onto Trade Street. She, Witt and Eric Keziah cruised for a while, and she quickly got the hang of it.

Witt and Moore say they wanted to reward Huntley for her hard work and dedication to the school. She's built a reputation for always “bending over backward to help people,” Moore said.

Huntley said she's grateful to have such supportive colleagues.

“I said after we were done that I felt like I could accomplish anything,” Huntley says. “I've never been caught off guard in all my life, but that day I sure was.”