LEWISTON — Thursday was the last day of school before the Christmas vacation, and the last day that Elaine Albert drove bus M9.

Albert, 74, has distinguished herself by being a school bus driver for 35 years, and by being one of the best, said Peter Ouellette, manager of Hudson Bus Lines Inc., which is contracted to provide transportation for Lewiston’s public school students.

She was honored Thursday with a retirement party.

It is unusual to have a bus driver be at the wheel for 35 years, said Butch Pratt, transportation director for the school department.

As Albert came into the Hudson office for what she thought was the annual Christmas party, she was greeted by a chorus of “Surprise!”

And surprsied she was.

Then her face relaxed. She smiled.

“Don’t make me cry,” she said. “I did enough of that this morning.”

Retiring for her is bittersweet.

“I’ll miss my kids,” she said.

Her plans are “to take care of my husband,” Roger.

After hugging friends, co-workers and her grown children, Albert was provided a cushy, swivel chair on which she sat.

“I feel like a queen,” she said.

A few speeches were offered before Albert was given plaques and a cake.

In a video, Denis Gallagher, CEO of Student Transportation of America, which owns Hudson Bus and is one of the largest student bus transportation firms in North America, said that Albert will be missed.

“Hudson Bus is so sad to see you go, but happy for you and your husband to spend time together in your retirement,” Gallagher said.

Assistant Superintendent Shawn Chabot, whose mother drove a school bus for 25 years, showed up to thank Albert on behalf of Lewiston’s residents and public schools.

Albert has provided “decades of dedication and professionalism as a school bus service,” Chabot said.

She began the job in 1982, and for more 35 years has provided “a warm-and-safe environment for students entrusted to her care,” he said.

As he spoke, Albert teared up.

Chabot added that Albert gave students on her bus a sense of belonging and a safe atmosphere. She always took an interest in each student.

The job of driving a school bus is demanding, Chabot said.

“Her compassion and demeanor allowed students to begin and end the school day on a positive note,” he said. “Elaine, as you hang up your keys for the last time, we wish you the best in retirement.”

Ouellette said he will miss Albert.

“You could count on her,” he said. “She was here every day. She never complained. She did her job and she did it well.”

She was handed a yellow booklet made by Farwell Elementary School students offering well wishes. Farwell is one of her runs.

During all her years driving, “I had fun doing it,” Albert said. “I’m going to miss it.”

Challenges of the job “were the parents sometimes,” she said, and the cold.

The best part is the kids, Albert said.

“The Farwell students,” she said, “I’ll miss them the most.”

Elaine Albert receives a hug Thursday from her husband, Roger, during her surprise retirement party at Hudson Bus Lines Inc. in Lewiston. Albert of Lewiston started driving a school bus in 1982. Thursday was her last day. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

Elaine Albert reads a card made for her by Farwell Elementary students during her surprise retirement party Thursday at Hudson Bus Lines Inc. in Lewiston. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.