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New Richmond remembers longtime bus driver

New Richmond residents are mourning one of the most well-known and oldest bus drivers the city has ever had.

Ed Brown, 90, died peacefully on Wednesday, Nov. 21.

Brown, the father of eight children, worked as a bus driver in New Richmond for 67 years.

"I think Ed was driving the grandchildren and the great-grandchildren of some of the people he used to drive," joked JR White, a bus driver for the school district.

White worked with Brown for about 20 years, he said.

"Ed was the kind of person who would give you the shirt off his back," he said. "He was very loyal."

Years ago, when her memory started to fade, Eleanor Brown, Ed Brown's wife, was moved into the memory care unit at the St. Croix County Nursing Home.

"Even though she didn't recognize him anymore, he still went to visit her every day," White said. "We always thought she would pass first and that we'd have to be there for Ed. I guess things didn't work out that way."

Even at 90 years old, Brown was still driving, White said.

"He refused to drive on 65 though," he said. "It was too busy for Ed."

He had a reputation for being a bit of a defensive driver.

"He was pretty slow, but he was safe," White said. "One time, we were driving down to Madison for boys basketball and we had three buses. We were told to put Ed between us so he had to keep up."

When Brown retired in 2007, at age 86, he had never been in an accident. To White's knowledge, that still rang true.

"He was a kind and gentle man, but he didn't put up with any shenanigans," White said. "He did all he could to straighten kids out before getting assistance from the school. By the time he had to write up a kid, he had talked to that kid's parents and had him sitting in the front seat for an amount of time."

At the time of his retirement, Brown told the New Richmond News that it was the simple nature of his job and the interaction with kids that were the reasons he'd been doing it so long.

"To be a good bus driver you have to see those kids as your own. You have to like kids and Ed loved the kids," White said.

Although the two lost touch over the years, White said he kept track of Brown through his son, Don Brown, who owns Brown Chiropractic in New Richmond.

Along with driving the bus, Brown was also involved with the Knights of Columbus Council 2845, said Gerald Frey.

"Ed joined about four months after the council was chartered," he said. "He was our second oldest member."

Recently, the council honored Brown for more than 70 years of service

"We had our fall dances and he never missed one," Frey said. "He loved to go dancing and joke around."

Frey said one day, while tending bar, Brown visited him.

"He came in around noon and just about fell over," Frey said. "He was slurring his words and I said to him, 'Ed! You're not driving the bus today are you?' and he looked at me and said, 'Sure I am, I drive like this every day!' I didn't know he was joking. He had a great sense of humor."

In reality, Brown didn't drink much, if at all, Frey said.

"He was a great guy," he said. "He liked people and people liked him. That's all there is to it."