WESTBROOK — If you attended a Westbrook school in the past 40 years or so, you probably knew Lillian Ricker.

“Lil,” as students called her, drove bus 26 for the Westbrook School Department. She was the driver who handed out candy canes around Christmas. She was also known for leading bus-fulls of students to sing with her. She led the youngest ones in a sing-along to “The Wheels on the Bus.”

“When the windows were down you could hear the kids singing,” said her daughter, Theresa Strout-Wade of Gorham. “It kept the kids entertained so they weren’t restless, fighting or throwing things.”

Mrs. Ricker died Wednesday of an apparent heart attack. She was 74.

She joined the Westbrook School Department in 1968 as a bus driver. She ushered students of every age and grade to schools throughout the city. She knew many students by their first name. Wade said her mother went above and beyond her duties as a bus driver.

She comforted kids who got on the wrong bus and drove them home, Wade said.

“She loved her work. She loved the kids,” her daughter said. “She got a kick out of their stories.”

Mrs. Ricker retired in June 2006. Peggy Bowden, administrative assistant for the Westbrook Schools Transportation Department, said she was well-liked by students and school administrators. Bowden said Mrs. Ricker taught many people how to drive a school bus, including her.

“When I first got my permit, she took me out and taught me to drive,” Bowden said, reflecting on their years of working together. “She was one of the old crew. There’s not too many of us left.”

Mrs. Ricker was a lifelong resident of Westbrook. She was married to Robert Strout for 32 years. Their marriage ended in divorce. She remarried, but her second husband pre-deceased her.

Mrs. Ricker was a dedicated mother of two children. Wade noted her mother’s smile, sense of humor and outgoing personality.

Wade said her mother was well-liked in the city. More than 75 people expressed condolences on Wade’s Facebook page.

A week before she died, Mrs. Ricker experienced some heart issues.

On Tuesday, Wade and her brother, Raymond Strout of Oxford, spent the day at their mother’s home going through her things.

They spent time looking through old pictures of family and close friends. Wade mentioned her mother’s paintings, which are hanging and leaning against her walls. She talked about her mother’s afghan blankets draped over the furniture.

“I found things that she held on to from when we were kids. The pictures – this woman had a lot of pictures. There’s lot of good memories,” Wade said.

A graveside service will be held Friday on what would have been Mrs. Ricker’s 75th birthday.

 

Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at: mcreamer@mainetoday.com