It's been a year of firsts for Jan Poland and her family.
The first father's day, first birthday, and first Christmas without their patriarch, Charles Poland.
"If he was here today he'd say why are y'all talking about me?" said his wife Jan.
The retired mechanic drove a school bus for Dale County. His wife is a substitute teacher. In the evening they loved talking about “their kids.”
“He'd come in and say so and so had more a's. He encouraged them,” said Jan.
To Jan he was just Chuck, but to the Wiregrass he's a hero. One year ago, Chuck died protecting the students on his bus.
Jan said, “That was just the makeup of the man he was.”
His sacrifice began when Jimmy Lee Dykes cleared a drive for the school bus to turn around. Chuck wanted to show his gratitude.
“Mr. Dykes approached Poland and asked how he liked the turnaround. Mr. Poland said I like it, and he said I though you would. Then he asked Mr. Poland if he liked broccoli or carrots. He said I'll have you some tomorrow. That was on a Monday afternoon,” said Dale County School Superintendent Donny Bynum.
The next morning Chuck left a jar of pepper jelly and dozen eggs at the gate with a thank you note. That afternoon Dykes had a sack of broccoli he was going to give chuck. That's when it turned on him.
He walked onto the school bus and demanded two hostages. Chuck refused.
“I don't know the moments there when it happened. But I don’t think it could be any other way. He had his faith. He had his values. He had his responsibility,” said Jan. “Could you? Could we do that? I hope and pray that I could. But I don't know. But I know Chuck was a strong man.”
Now his family clings to memories.
“I had 37 years with my dad. 37 years. I look on those 37 years more than I do on January 29,” said his daughter Lydia Hancock.
His grandchildren remember the caps he had for every occasion.
His daughter cherishes the phone calls.
Jan treasures the love notes they wrote to each other.
“You say oh that's a silly, but no. For 43 years 3 months and 26 days that's what we had,” said Jan. “We’re not making him out to be an iconic man. He was a normal man. He loved without asking for anything in return.”