Sara Martinez-Rodriguez, 67, of Philadelphia, a bus driver and then the owner of her own bus company, and a selfless neighbor who often helped those in need of a ride or other service, died Monday, Aug. 16, at home of renal failure after a stroke.
Mrs. Martinez-Rodriguez was a go-getter who did not let setbacks or obstacles slow her down much. Wanting to be in charge of her own time and activity, she founded her own one-driver, one-bus company, SMR Transportation, a few years ago.
In the time it operated before the pandemic, Mrs. Martinez-Rodriguez not only earned busing contracts with schools, day-care centers, churches, camps, and clubs, she provided transportation, often free, to friends and neighbors who needed rides in a pinch.
Her yellow bus was a fixture in her West Philadelphia neighborhood. “She was such a giving person,” said daughter Parella Long. “Turning a profit was not the goal.”
Beginning in 1989, Mrs. Martinez-Rodriguez drove a bus for nearly three decades before she created her own company. She worked for Philly Transportation LLC and Diamond Bus & Limo Inc. and found that driving gave her opportunities to see new places and meet new people.
She often drove groups to local amusement parks and Shore destinations, and her family liked to pile into her bus for special trips together.
“She loved the freedom of driving to places she wanted to see,” said her daughter. “She never wanted to be held down.”
An expert do-it-yourself home decorator, Mrs. Martinez-Rodriguez also helped out neighbors by decorating their homes or other venues for parties, meetings, and gatherings of all sorts. “She had a knack for transforming a space into something absolutely amazing,” her daughter said.
She cooked for events, too, if the organizers needed it. “She did it all,” her daughter said.
Born Feb. 7, 1954, Mrs. Martinez-Rodriguez was the youngest of six children. Her mother was a pastor, and Mrs. Martinez-Rodriguez adopted her giving and caring ways. She dropped out as a junior in high school in the 1970s when circumstances dictated but returned and earned her degree at Benjamin Franklin High School in 1987 at 33.
Working at night, often as a home health-care aide, she went to school during the day, and participated in many of the activities she had missed when she was younger. A soprano who performed with choirs at church, weddings, funerals, and other events, she sang in the high school talent show and at the graduation ceremony. She even went to the prom and homecoming events.
Her daughter said that Mrs. Martinez-Rodriguez spent so much time earning her high school degree that she would sometimes doze off while helping her children complete their homework.
“She worked so hard for us, and for herself,” Long said.
An active member of Bethel Deliverance International Church, she married Marshall Long, who died earlier, and was separated from her second husband, Juan Martinez-Rodriguez.
One of her favorite pastimes was hanging around with lifelong friends Janet Pinkney, Donna Lane, and Verdette Bennett, and they often helped her on her decorating and cooking jobs.
“Her focus in life was purely driven by her selflessness, the desires of her heart, and the happiness of others,” her daughter said. “She was the glue that held the family together.”
In addition to her daughter, Mrs. Martinez-Rodriguez is survived by daughters Jame, Sara, and Lea; sons Joel and Ryan; 26 grandchildren; 10 great-grandchildren; and other relatives. Her five older brothers died earlier.
Services were Aug. 25.