Three Rivers athletics’ longtime bus driver and Poplar Bluff School District employee Steve Shupe died Tuesday after falling ill over the weekend. He was 69.
“I feel a great loss,” former men’s basketball coach Gene Bess said. “A lot of times, the bus driver doesn’t get a lot of credit. He’s driven thousands of miles, and he’s right in the middle of everything. He wants to see success just as bad as anybody. I hope he realized that he was very important to our program.”
Amidst empty gyms this season, Three Rivers radio announcer Tim Hager joked on the air that Shupe, affectionately called Shupey by the teams, was cheering so hard the refs were going to kick him and Hager out of the gym.
“Loudest voice in the gym,” Three Rivers women’s basketball coach Alex Wiggs said. “I always liked that he sat across from me because I said the ref I couldn’t yell at; he could handle them on that side. And he usually did.”
The Raiders knew Shupe as someone willing to do anything for the teams.
“Shupe was a huge supporter of Three Rivers College in general and Three Rivers Athletics in particular,” Three Rivers President Dr. Wesley Payne said.
Once at the Bess Activity Center, Shupe was asked to sing the national anthem and agreed. He would sing on the bus to help keep himself awake sometimes, but on this night, he messed up the words halfway through and had to start over. He was a member of the booster club, and would sweep the court during breaks. He’d hand players drinks and lead everyone in prayer.
During a couple of team meetings this year for the men’s basketball team, Shupe spoke up, giving the players advice. He was in coach Brian Bess’s office as recently as Wednesday offering to help with recruiting.
“Just a good example of how we should all try to be. Yet he downplayed it a lot. He will be greatly missed,” Brian Bess said. “Just a servent’s heart. Just a good person.”
While Shupe was primarily the driver for the men’s basketball team, he was a fan of every sport and occasionally drove the other teams.
“There’s nothing you could say about him that even warrants how good of a person he was,” Three Rivers baseball coach Tyler Smith said. “He wanted our kids to represent the college the right way ... Our kids respected him, and he was always good to our kids.”
Shupe had filed his paperwork to retire from Poplar Bluff High School in June after 17 years with the school district and was looking forward to driving for the school more often in the future.
“Mr. Shupe was always around and he worked for the school for the right reasons,” Poplar Bluff R-1 School District President Dr. Scott Dill said.
Shupe was driving the softball team on a road trip when he fell ill.
“I think he was pretty excited about (retiring) because he mentioned it several times,” Three Rivers softball coach Jeff Null said. “He was always one of the kids’ favorite drivers. He was always super-talkative and a fan.”
They were in Sedalia as part of a four-day road trip, and Shupe was late for the team’s leave time. Members of the team, including players pursuing a nursing career, went to his hotel room to check on him and called 9-1-1.
As he was helped out of the room, Shupe apologized to the girls because he wouldn’t be able to drive them home.
Scott Borkgren - Daily American Republic