by Lisa Tome
For years, people in the community have approached Marge Gilbert asking her one question, "Still driving?"
Finally, Gilbert can say "No."
As of Friday, June 12, Gilbert 75, had driven nearly four million miles on a school bus. In her 47 years behind the wheel she has never had an accident or been cited for a violation. She also had 44 years of perfect attendance.
Gilbert has racked up a lot of miles and memories before her retirement became effective on June 12.
Back in 1968, Gilbert's late husband, Robert, had a job driving a school bus. He wanted to give it up and asked if she would take over.
Gilbert, now a mother of four, grandmother of six, and great-grandmother of two, said yes.
The rest is bus driver history.
She decided this is the year to retire, because her youngest grandson, Matthew Hayden, graduated on Friday. "I wanted to go out with him," said Gilbert.
"I've loved all these years. We've had some troubled kids but we got through it," she said. She's hauled as many as three generations of the same families.
Back when she started driving, taking over for Robert, she worked for contractor Rufus Benjamin. She stayed with Benjamin's for 22 years before signing on to drive for her son Joe's company, Gilbert Bus, in 1989. For Benjamin's she drove Bus 51. She's driven Bus 82 ever since.
She has driven students to and from Cecil County School of Technology, Bo Manor, and Rising Sun Middle. She wrapped up her career serving Calvert Elementary and Rising Sun High. She has also driven for numerous field trips, summer school, sports trips, night school, and has brought buses back from the manufacturer in Arkansas. She also served a volunteer driver taking students to Calvert Manor Healthcare for visits and driving band and choral students to sing at elementary schools.
"I've had so many great kids. I drove in the best parts of the county," said Gilbert. Those she has driven have gone on to be business owners, state troopers, and more. "I've just enjoyed it. I loved to see the kids and how they've grown," she said.
She said children have changed over the years. "They're not respectful now. They've lost respect for adults," she said.
Buses have also changed over the years. For the past three years, Gilbert's bus has been equipped with cameras and GPS. "And traffic is so much different now. Nobody stops at stop signs anymore," she said.
"I never thought this would come to an end. I won't be able to see the kids (anymore)," she said. She will maintain her driver certifications and may on occasion fill in as a driver.
She is active in the community and is a longtime member of the Community Fire Company of Rising Sun Ladies Auxiliary and was inducted into the Harford Cecil Auxiliary Hall of Fame for 50 years of service. She is also a longtime member and volunteer at Ebenezer United Methodist Church.