Andover school bus driver Rick Frederickson pulled up to his stops last Wednesday wearing his trademark smile and saying hello to parents as their kids piled into his bus.
It was a typical day for the longtime driver of Andover public school bus number 13. Nothing appeared to be out of the ordinary — but it would be Frederickson’s last day alive.
The 70-year-old, a resident of North Andover, died unexpectedly that night. He worked for the Trombly Bus Company, which has the Andover school bus contract. He lived alone, was not married and had no children, company officials said.
Christine Valcourt, president of the Trombly company, said Frederickson drove his regular school bus route in Andover on Wednesday of last week, then drove a bus for an athletic team later in the day. He suffered a medical emergency around 8:45 p.m., Valcourt said. An autopsy will be done to determine the cause of his death, she said.
Parents, School Department staff members, students and Frederickson’s coworkers were saddened to hear the news of his death. He was a popular, friendly and conscientious school bus driver for 45 years, according to school officials.
“Rick was a dedicated and valued part of the APS (Andover Public Schools) community. He worked tirelessly to ensure the safety of generations of APS students, always willing to go above and beyond for our families,” Mary Lu Walsh, Andover public schools transportation manager, wrote in an email to parents after the death.
“We can’t look at each other without getting very emotional,’’ Valcourt said of how Frederickson’s coworkers at the Trombly company reacted to his death. “He was the sweetest man who took care of his elderly mom for years until she passed. He loved being a school bus driver. The kids on the bus were his kids.”
Over the years, Frederickson drove Andover bus 13 for Bancroft, West Elementary, West Middle and Andover High schools.
Parent Tracey Spruce, vice chair of the Andover School Committee, said it was very hard to tell her children about Frederickson’s death. Her children rode his bus for eight years, she said.
“He always had a smile when he pulled up,’’ she said. “My kids were shocked.’’
Frederickson had a reputation for being a very safe driver who made sure bus riders stayed in their seats, school officials said. He obeyed speed limits and knew every child’s name, Valcourt said.
“Route 13 is now open,’’ Valcourt said. “and I just hope the next driver loves it as much as he did.’’