Veteran bus driver Richard LeSan is being remembered this week as a man who did so much more than transport RSU 20 students to and from school each day.

According to his obituary, LeSan passed away in Boston Jan. 2.

RSU 20 Superintendent Bruce Mailloux said LeSan worked as a driver in the former SAD 34 for many years, and stayed on as a driver when the district consolidated with SAD 56 to create RSU 20 in 2009. Mailloux said LeSan had primarily conducted bus runs for the Searsport area during the past five years.

Mailloux described LeSan as a man who enjoyed his job.

“He loved his kids, and his kids loved him,” said Mailloux.

LeSan was a popular driver who was known for making the daily bus rides to and from school a little more festive during the holiday season, adding Christmas decorations to the interior of the bus.

“I don’t know if he brought it in on a tape recorder, or how he did it, but he would play Christmas music on the bus,” said Mailloux.

School staff is coping with the loss of their co-worker, as in some cases, LeSan had worked with school employees for many years.

“There’s always a coping issue when you lose somebody popular, like he was,” Mailloux said.

Mailloux said the larger focus, however, has been on helping the children who rode LeSan’s bus. Guidance counselors are available for students who need to talk. Members of the district’s two crisis intervention teams met prior to the start of school Monday morning, Jan. 3, to make sure everything the students may need would be in place once they arrived at school.

Additionally, a note was sent home Monday, Jan. 3, to the parents of the children who rode LeSan’s bus. The note was intended not only to inform the parents of LeSan’s passing, Mailloux said, but also to offer parents a few ideas on how they could help their children cope with the loss of their bus driver.

“It gave the families some ways to deal with grief,” he said.

RSU 20 Maintenance and Transportation Director Mitch Brown hired LeSan as a substitute driver in 1995, and brought him on as a full-time driver the following year. Brown said Tuesday that he had just come from a meeting with the district transportation staff regarding LeSan’s passing, which he described as “the hardest meeting he’s ever been to.”

Brown expressed concern for the children who rode LeSan’s bus, noting that LeSan’s students gave him Christmas gifts prior to the beginning of the holiday vacation.

“I just can’t imagine being a kid and coming back from Christmas break, and wondering, where’s the man I trust, adore and love? I just can’t imagine it,” he said.

Brown described LeSan as a top-notch driver who went above and beyond to make sure he knew all of the children and their parents prior to the start of a new school year. Brown said LeSan would take it upon himself to create his own bus routes during the summer, going out of his way to meet existing families in the neighborhood as well as to greet the new arrivals.

“There was nothing he couldn’t tell you about his kids,” Brown remembered. “He even knew what their cats’ names were.”

Brown said LeSan was known as a man who loved people, and loved to talk. Brown said LeSan could often be found at Belfast Variety, sipping coffee, greeting neighbors and striking up conversations with all who visited the store.

“I can’t think of somebody who didn’t know him,” said Brown.

Those who played football for Belfast would likely remember LeSan as the man who drove them to and from many away games, and Brown said the players loved LeSan because he would cheer on the team and comment on the referee’s decisions alongside them.

Brown said he learned of LeSan’s failing health when he received a call from his wife, Rickie, on Christmas Day. Brown, who said he’s been a friend of LeSan’s family for many years, said the news about his co-worker and friend hit him hard.

“He absolutely was a great driver,” said Brown. “I’m going to miss him.”

Bus drivers have special roles in the eyes of students, Mailloux said, and in some cases their relationship with their bus driver can make the difference between a good day and a bad one.

“You’ve got to remember that from a student’s perspective, the first school person they see each day is the bus driver, and the last school person they see each day is the bus driver,” said Mailloux. “If you’re starting off with a bad day, sometimes the bus driver can turn it around with a smile or a joke. At the end of the day, maybe a friendly ride home helps calm a student down.”

According to his obituary, LeSan graduated from Belfast Area High School in 1969, and at one time he drove trucks for Penobscot Poultry and Maplewood Poultry before becoming a bus driver. He was also a member of the Quantibacook Masonic Lodge and Anah Temple Shrine.