Carol Creaser Family photo

Carol Creaser, a beloved van driver for the REAL School who made a big difference in students’ lives for 33 years, died last month. She was 70.
Mrs. Creaser was a popular driver for the REAL School, an alternative education program for students who struggle in traditional settings. She picked up students from more than 30 sending districts and communities and drove them to school, then home. The Casco resident died on March 9.

Pender Makin, the state’s education commissioner and former director of the REAL School, said Mrs. Creaser had an active role in truancy prevention. Makin said if students didn’t come outside to the van, Mrs. Creaser would knock on the door, and go inside the house to get them out of bed.

“She was a motherly, caring and loving woman who was the first person to greet some of Maine’s most disaffected and challenging youth as they were embarking upon their school day,” Makin said. “It was more than driving a van. It was truancy prevention and intervention. It was very much like a family atmosphere and Carol was a longstanding and integral part of that dynamic.”

Mrs. Creaser drove hundreds of miles every week throughout her career. In 2018, she retired from the REAL School in Raymond, which is now called the Katahdin Program.

Lillie Hanlon, a retired van driver for the REAL School in Windham, said the kids loved and respected Mrs. Creaser.

Hanlon said if Mrs. Creaser knew that a student was having problems, she would drop the student off last and get them an ice cream and talk before driving them home.
“When she sensed that a kid needed something a little extra, she gave that little bit extra emotional support,” Hanlon said.

She laughed Tuesday recalling the year the REAL School in Raymond relocated to a new school in Hollis, which had geodesic domes on each end of the building. She said they went to Hollis to clean and get things ready to move in.

“This was always done by the van drivers,” Hanlon said. “We opened the door to one of the geodesic domes and there was the three of us standing there. I said, ‘That’s the prettiest carpet I have ever seen in my entire life.’ All the sudden, kaboom! The whole thing collapsed. It wasn’t carpet, it was mold. It was the prettiest shade of green you ever saw. None of us stepped in. Oh My God, I think about the look on our faces.”

Mrs. Creaser was known for slowing the van down to a crawl to point out beautiful things to kids, especially tulips.

“She would literally pull over and take in the beauty,” Makin said.

Dave Bulger, a former co-worker, said Creaser would sing “Buckle up for Safety,” if a student didn’t buckle their seat belt.

“It would drive the kids crazy,” Bulger said, recalling her dedication to the job. “These kids were diamonds in the rough and she never gave up on them. Sometimes she would wait in the driveway for 20 minutes. She made sure the kids got to school.”

Mrs. Creaser grew up in Addison and graduated from high school in 1966. She later graduated from Gorham State College with a degree in early childhood education.

She lived in Casco with her son, Eddie Creaser. She was remembered by her son Tuesday as a loving woman, who worked hard to provide for him.

“She always wanted the best for me,” her son said. “She always did her best for me and that carried over to everything. That’s the way she was with everyone.”

Mrs. Creaser loved her two grandchildren, Lexi and Samantha Creaser.

“They really meant the world to her,” her son said.

A celebration of her life will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Masonic Lodge, at 964 River Road in Windham.

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