WARREN, Maine — Herbert “Bud” Wood drove school buses for 50 years in the Rockland area but he is remembered most for his kindness.
Wood was such an icon in the area that Life magazine did a four-page photo spread on him in 1962 titled: “The Most Loved Man in Town.”
Wood, 92, died Friday, April 26, at the home of his son Randy in Warren.
Life found him so interesting it did the story on Wood in 1962. Wood’s son Richard said that someone from the area wrote to the national magazine and suggested the beloved school bus driver might make for a good human interest piece.
Wood was 40 at the time and already had driven hundreds of youngsters to and from school over the previous 17 years.
The Life article stated that Wood ”unfailingly found special fond words” for the children he carried but his voice could turn ominously stern if there was roughhousing on his 100 miles on the road each day.
One 5-year-old girl — Melissa Fales — told Wood she wanted to marry him.
The piece also stated that Wood received the ultimate compliment from a teenager who said his bus driver was “strictly from Hepsville.”
There also is a photo in the article with 8-year-old Craig Smith showing off his report card to Wood, who praised the youth for getting all As and joking that when he was in school he got all Zs.
The writer also referred to the extra mile that the bus driver went to care for some of his charges: “At age 5, Craig was hobbled by arthritis and Bud would tenderly carry him across the road to the bus.”
Parents and other residents so appreciated Wood that the town of Owls Head named a road after him. He also was the inspiration for a children’s book, “Here Comes the Bus,” which was published in 1963.
Wood’s son Richard on Monday recalled what a hardworking man his father was.
“He worked from 3:30 in the morning until 10 at night,” he recalled. “People revered him.
Those mornings would begin at 3:30 so he could meet the delivery truck bringing the Rockland area copies of the Bangor Daily News. Wood would then drop the papers off to stores and paperboys.
Once he was done with that job, he would go to the school and get his bus ready for that day’s runs.
And after school, he was the primary driver for sports teams taking trips to other schools for games.
Despite all those hours at work, Richard said his dad was a great father.
“He was a kind, loving father. He was the glue that kept the family together,” Richard said.
Sharon Spaulding, who worked for more than 30 years in the school district with Wood, said he was conscientious about his job and the nicest man you could ever meet.
She recalled that the school district never had the bus routes written down until the 1980s because Wood knew them all in his head.
“He was a human computer. He recalled every student and where they lived,” Spaulding said.
Wood was born Oct. 29, 1920, in Thomaston, the son of George and Kathryn (Kirkpatrick) Wood.
He grew up on Limerock Street in Rockland and was a lifelong resident of Knox County.
When he turned 4, he began working at the family’s store and later worked for many years alongside his mother at the family’s taxi business.
He served in the Army, joining in 1943, and was stationed at Camp Maxey in Texas.
In 1946, he returned to Rockland and began driving school buses.
Wood added the title of transportation director to his resume in the 1980s but continued driving. He retired in 1996 after 50 years of driving buses.
In 1987, he estimated he had driven more than 2 million miles in his career. Over those 50 years and all those miles he had no accidents.
Each time a new bus was purchased by the district, he would show it off and talk about it as if it was a new member of his family.
His main routes during his years with the school district were in Owls Head and South Thomaston. He pointed out that he drove many children who later became teachers at the schools in the district and that he drove three generations of children.
Hundreds of people turned out for a celebration held in his honor when Wood retired. He received letters from President Bill Clinton, Gov. Angus King and U.S. Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins.
Upon his retirement, he was named the grand marshal of the Maine Lobster Festival parade.
He later won a battle with throat cancer, his son said.
He married Lee Dudley on Nov. 16. 1952. She died from lupus on Feb. 8, 1967.
Wood is survived by his sister Virginia “Gini” Wood Kunesh of Camden and brother William “Bill” Wood of Rockland; son Richard and wife Kathy of Virginia; son Randy of Warren; daughter Wendy “Tess” Holt and husband Andy of Tennessee; son Jon and wife Alison of Rockport; son Barry and wife Tracey of South Carolina; son Herbert C. Wood Jr. of Rockport; eight grandchildren and seven great grandchildren. He was predeceased by first wife, Maxine; by wife Lee Dudley Wood; and survived by former wife Paula Bixby.
A memorial service will be held 11 a.m. Saturday, May 11, at the Oceanside High School auditorium in Rockland. A private family graveside service at the Village Cemetery in South Thomaston will follow the memorial service.
In lieu of flowers, donations in memory of Lee Dudley Wood may be made directly to the Lupus Research Institute at www.lupusresearchinstitute.org/.
A more complete obituary can be viewed and condolences made at www.directcremationofmaine.com. Condolences may also be sent to the Wood family at 89 Old Rockland St., Rockport, ME 04856.