RICHMOND — Carl Watts knocked on Doreen Moody’s door 31 years ago and offered her a job out of the blue.

“I want you to come learn how to drive a bus,” he told her. “Seriously, I think you would be a good bus driver.”

It’s not clear now exactly what Watts saw in Moody as she walked home with her youngest child every day. But he invited her to his house the next day, handed her the keys to the school bus parked there and they went for a drive.

“It was just the right timing, I think,” Moody said, sitting at her dining room table Wednesday afternoon.

More than three decades later, the Richmond native decided the timing was right to retire after working one job or another since she was 15.

So not two hours earlier, Moody, 66, took her last trip as a school bus driver in Richmond.

She called in to the office to say she had made her last stop, and when she reached Langdon Road, near Alexander Reed Road, waiting for her were a police car and a firetruck.

Richmond police Sgt. James Donnell stood by his car and told Miss Doreen, as she’s known, that she was getting a hero’s parade of her own.

With the police car and firetruck in front of her, and her husband, Rick, who owns Rick’s Towing, falling in behind her bus at the wheel of his wrecker, they made their way back to the school grounds, where more than 100 people waited to greet her at the end of her final run.

“I couldn’t believe the people took the time out of their day to do that,” she said, moved nearly to tears, and not for the first time that day.

In her daily trips, Moody instilled in her kids, from pre-kindergarten to high school, important lessons about being kind to one another and behaving.

“I taught them to sit safe,” she said. “Backs back, bums down and feet on the floor.”

Teaching that and reinforcing good behavior on the bus was comparatively easy. Much harder, she said, has been knowing that when she has dropped them off, they might not be going to a good place and that their lives could change overnight.

Given her druthers, she would have had a quieter retirement day. But the festivities are still not done.

A farewell reception will be held for Moody from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday at the American Legion Post 132 on Carding Machine Road. It’s open to the public.

“She has cared for each and every child who has ridden her bus as if they were her own,” said Katie Spear, transportation director for Richmond and Monmouth.

Jessica Lowell can be contacted at 621-5632 or at:

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Twitter: JLowellKJ