The 30 year journey of a vintage GO Transit painting and how it found a permanent home

Fred Bentley worked for GO Transit for more than 30 years and he retired in style. Not only did he leave a mark on his colleagues, he also left with a piece of GO memorabilia. Metrolinx News paints you a picture of one man’s career and how a retirement gift made its way back to the halls of transit history.

You don’t spend 30 years on the job without accumulating a few colourful stories and keepsakes along the way.

In Fred Bentley’s case, it was one particular item that caught his eye. But we’ll get to that in a bit.

First, we want to create a portrait of a good man who did a good job during his life.

Bentley spent his whole career working on and around buses. He started at Grey Coach in the 1970s, and a few years later made the move to join the GO Transit ranks. He spent most of his career at GO’s Steeprock bus garage in North York.

Bentley, a born and raised Torontonian, eventually moved to Mississauga, where he raised his two daughters, Lisa and Julie.

Julie Bentley-McLoughlin says her dad was a great family man and a hard worker.

“He had some really good friends at GO Transit and enjoyed his time there – he took immense pride in his work,” says Bentley-McLoughlin.

Fred Bentley saying farewell to his friends at the Steeprock GO bus garage on his retirement day.
Fred Bentley (middle) saying farewell to his friends at the Steeprock GO bus garage on his retirement day. (Julie Bentley-McLoughlin photo)

After decades of service, Bentley retired in May 1996. To say his retirement was a memorable affair would be an understatement.

On his last day, Bentley and his family hired a Cadillac limousine and filled it with custom made balloons that read “see you later, fellas” in large black font. As he rolled up to his retirement party, balloons erupted from the limo’s trunk. This story was talked about for years by GO bus staff.

Vintage GO buses sit in the background as Fred Bentley's Cadillac makes a memorable entrance at his retirement party - balloons coming out of the trunk
Vintage GO buses sit in the background as Fred Bentley’s Cadillac makes a memorable entrance at his retirement party. (Julie Bentley-McLoughlin photo)

That’s where a unique retirement gift comes into this tale.

A real work of art.

Fred Bentley's daughters Julie and Lisa hold the one-of-a-kind painting done by a local artist in 1989 – featuring an older model GO train and GO bus.
Fred Bentley’s daughters Julie and Lisa hold the one-of-a-kind painting done by a local artist in 1989 – featuring an older model GO train and GO bus. (Julie Bentley-McLoughlin photo)

Bentley-McLoughlin says the large painting was originally on the office wall at the Steeprock bus garage and was given to her dad when he retired.  

She says her dad proudly displayed the artwork in his living room until he passed away in 2017.

Now, Bentley-McLoughlin and her family have decided to donate the painting back to the company her father faithfully served for more than three decades.

“We are so happy for the painting to find its way back to GO Transit – it’s a special tribute to our dad,” says Bentley-McLoughlin. “There’s really no greater honour.”

a polaroid of the Fred Bentley enjoying a slice of cake with coworkers.
A polaroid from 1996 showing Fred Bentley (middle) in his usual GO Transit uniform. (Julie Bentley-McLoughlin photo)

Anthony Pezzetti, GO Transit’s senior manager of bus operations, says the painting will be hung at the Streetsville GO bus garage in Mississauga.

Pezzetti says it will be a great addition to the existing “GO Bus Museum”, which contains artifacts from current and former employees that worked in the bus division. A fitting tribute to a man that spent much of his adult life in the transit industry.

“Getting the painting from Julie and her family, it really feels like part of our family has come home,” says Pezzetti.  

Fred Bentley may not be here to admire the painting, but with it hanging in a bustling transit depot it will capture the imagination of an entire new generation of transit workers for years to come.

And if every person’s life can be an original work of art, Fred’s is still being admired and shared.

Story by Scott Money, Metrolinx News editorial team