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Rosie’s ride to remember

Resident sits in front seat for her dream bus ride

Published: Friday, May 25, 2012 5:00 p.m. CDT
Caption
(Photo submitted)
Sunny Hill Nursing Home resident Rosie Alexander (center) and some friends prepare for her dream bus ride on Monday, May 21.

JOLIET — Most people don’t dream of an early afternoon ride in a school bus, but Rosie Alexander did.

On Monday, May 21, the former Lockport School District bus driver’s dream came true thanks to the school district and Sunny Hill Nursing Home of Will County.

Alexander, 82, spent 25 years driving students from kindergarten through high school. When she started, the buses were still stick-shifts. Driving meant gassing up and cleaning the bus, too.

She recalled how the kindergarten children would cry as they got on the bus at the beginning of the year.

“After a few weeks they were old pros. My kindergarteners were the sweetest,” she said. “I adored all of (the students).

Becoming a bus driver had an added bonus for her.

“At the time I had two kids and they were young,” Alexander said. “My husband (William T. Alexander) didn’t want me to leave them with anybody.”

So until they were old enough to be on their own for a short while, Michael and Rodney Alexander, rode along as Mom did her daily route.     

But she didn’t just drive students to and from school. She did trips, too. At times, her bus would be so full there would be three students to a seat.

“I went to a lot of museums and places I never would have gone on my own,” she said. “I drove to Champaign (in 1978) the year Lockport won the (boys basketball state) championship.

“Amazing thing — I never got lost. And I was blessed never to have an accident.”

Dream ride

During her dream ride, Alexander sat in the front seat. In the driver’s seat was a former colleague, Rita Luzbetak, a driver since 1978. Joining them on the ride were more than a half dozen other retired female drivers who had worked with Alexander.

The women shared stories from their driving days and caught up on each others’ lives.

On Monday, Alexander wore a black skirt and top with a sparkly design. One former colleagues recalled that Alexander always wore skirts and dresses — even in snowstorms.

“I had been wearing them all my life,” said Alexander, who still wears skirts nearly every day. “That’s my type of clothes.”

In the winter she would add knee-high boots, two pairs of nylons and socks to keep warm.

The route included Fairmont School, the Fairmont Community Center, and Central and East High Schools.

Having former co-workers join her on her ride had been a pleasant addition. A stop at the bus barn brought more smiles and more reminiscing. More retirees — and some current employees who had worked with Alexander — were waiting to greet her. And there were gifts.

She received a dozen long-stemmed red roses and a framed photo of the drivers in front of a school bus from the year she started driving.

Fulfilling dreams

Sunny Hill works with the residents and their families to find out residents’ dreams and then helps to fulfill the dreams.    

Alexander has called Sunny Hill home for about three years. Her dream of seeing the roads she used to travel with a bus full of kids turned out to be “wonderful. It was so good seeing everybody,” she said.

That camaraderie was part of what she enjoyed about the job. She retired earlier than she would have liked to take care of her ill husband. William Alexander died in 2001.

After an afternoon filled with surprises, Alexander noted one more.

“The bus didn’t bounce as much as they used to,” she said.

Contact Larry Lindholm, Activity Director and Volunteer Coordinator, at (815) 727-8711 or go to http://www.willcountyillinois.com and click on department directory for more information about Sunny Hill.

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