LIVERMORE FALLS — Eleanor Jackson wiped tears from her eyes as it sank in that she had delivered her last generation of school children to their homes.

The 81-year-old Livermore resident is the first woman school bus driver in the area and retired June 30 after a nearly 40-year career.

“I really didn’t want to get done, but physically it was time,” Jackson said after her retirement party held by Regional School Unit 36 officials.

“Mentally I was there,” she said. “Physically I felt I had too many things. If I could, I would drive until I was 90. Your body gets old. That is the sad thing. Your mind wants to do.

“I’m going to miss it,” she said. “I like to keep busy. That is what’s worrying me.”

She’ll have plenty to do this summer at her Green Knoll Farm tending the gardens, raising beef cattle and mowing three acres. She has been a farmer for decades, and took time off each year to show her cattle at Fryeburg Fair.

“Thank you so very much,” said district Transportation Director Ken Vining. He described her as “a perfect worker.”

Vining’s assistant, Shawn Keene, thanked her for her kindness and help.

Keene and friend Kim Cote, both of Livermore, made a quilt for Jackson that had an image of the No. 12 school bus. The quilt was signed by students and others, and the 4-year-olds Jackson drove home this past year put their handprints on it.

“She is a wonderful lady, she really is,” Keene said.

RSU 36 school Director Denise Rodzen presented Jackson with a watch on behalf of the school board and thanked her for her commitment and safety record.

“It was wonderful. I never worried about my kids being on the bus with Eleanor,” said Jean Tardif of Livermore. “I just knew they were always going to come home safe.”

Jackson drove buses for SAD 36 and RSU 36 for 39 years, nine months and 20 days, and before that for two years in Rhode Island.

She made $2.25 an hour to start; $14.67 at the time of her retirement.

She was born in Bangor and grew up mostly in Fayette. She left the state for a while and returned and bought property in Livermore.

She started with SAD 36 doing the kindergarten and the extra-curricular runs, and substituted in Livermore. In those days she also drove the roads of Fayette.

“I love the kids, all the ages. I’ve had some pretty good experiences with the kids. You get almost like family,” Jackson said.

“I tried not to let things bother me,” she said. “They knew if they got out of hand. I’d look at them in the mirror and give them the look. They used to think I had eyes in the back of my head.

The key is respect.

“You’ve got to respect them. Everybody is different,” she said

If someone acted up, she would find time to discuss the issue and her expectations.

“You had to stick to whatever your rules are,” Jackson said.

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