Back to Top “My craft is to make people happy” - The Ottawa Hospital
 

“My craft is to make people happy”

 
Bill

Bill Nauffts checks his watch every 30 seconds.  It’s not to be impolite; it’s to make sure his passengers get where they need to go on time. As a shuttle bus driver for The Ottawa Hospital, Bill spends his days driving staff, physicians, volunteers and patients between our three campuses. He begins his route at 5:15 a.m. and completes five 16-kilometre round trips before he calls it a day at 2 p.m. 

Bill takes great pride in what he does on the road, but it’s what he does on his breaks that fuels his days—and for years, has brought delight and comfort to his passengers and the people around him.

Video thumbnail: Bill Nauffts waving while sitting in the driver seat of his shuttle bus.
Many people at The Ottawa Hospital know Bill Nauffts as one of our shuttle bus drivers. But Bill is also a talented artisan, with deeply personal motivations, who loves to share his craft with others. Learn more about Bill in this short documentary.

A hobby that fills the cupholders of his bus

During the small pockets of time between trips, Bill pulls out his pocketknife and a small piece of wood. Carving is a hobby he picked up in the 1980s, and his handywork now fills the cupholders of his bus.

Bill is a bit sheepish when his passengers give him compliments about his carvings, but he says it’s a great way to strike up conversation.

“Carving gives me a little peace,” he says.  “It sort of closes my mind to the job itself and opens my mind to my love of my craft.  And in my opinion, my craft is to make people happy.  So, when I’m doing a carve, even if it’s for only two minutes, it’s two minutes that I create and make someone happy.”

Bill’s carved figurines sitting in cupholders
Bill keeps his figurines in the cupholders of his shuttle bus.  He says they are a great way for him to strike up conversations with his passengers.

Carving isn’t just a conversation starter with his passengers; it is also a gift that he likes to share with others—particularly families who have been impacted by illness—because he, too, knows what it’s like to be in their shoes.

A very personal loss inspires every cut

Although he himself has never had cancer, Bill has a special place in his heart for patients and families affected by it.

Several years ago, Bill’s best friend of 38 years, Kevin, was diagnosed with cancer.

“He fought to the end,” Bill remembers.  He was by his best friend’s side nearly every day in those final months.

Bill (left) and his best friend, Kevin.
Bill (left) lost his best friend Kevin to cancer in 2018. This is their last photo together.

Today, Kevin’s memory is an important part of Bill’s life, and that’s why it’s especially meaningful when Bill can give one of his carvings to a person or family affected by the disease.

“One particular couple had lost their son, and I asked them what their son liked to do,” Bill recalls.  “They said he played hockey, but they didn’t know why I was asking.  When I presented the angel to them, I had a hockey stick carved into it, so that was very special.”

Another family placed Bill’s angel in a sealed container and put it on their father’s grave site.

“For someone to do that, it means the world to me,” he says.

Bill’s drawing of an angel holding a hockey stick.  Text reads “Bill Nauffts Creatinve Carving. Young son with red hair who loved playing hockey.
When a young boy’s parents told Bill that their late son loved to play hockey, Bill planned a special angel just for them.  This is his sketch that he used to create their one-of-a-kind wooden figurine.

The hospital is more than a workplace for Bill

To Bill, the Ottawa Hospital isn’t just where he works. It is a trusted place where he and his loved ones receive lifechanging care.

Bill’s grandchildren were delivered here.

His sister, Margaret Rose Racette, was diagnosed with colon cancer and received treatment here.

In 2021, Bill had a car accident, and was rushed to the Emergency Department.  In a twist of fate, the resident taking care of him there had been a passenger on his shuttle earlier that day.  The accident damaged the nerves in his mouth, which affects his speech, but he has otherwise recovered.

It’s not lost on Bill that the people who ride his bus every day are the same people who have cared for him, his own family, and countless others in the community.

Bill finds peace in carving wood, and considers it his craft to “make people happy.”

“I feel grateful because I get to take them back and forth to work to help other people, and even though my job is just driving them, at least I can give them the best service to get them to where they need to go,” he says.

And in the minutes in between, he can fuel up with a few cuts of wood.

Bill Nauffts eyes reflected in the rear-view mirror of his bus
 
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