Eileen Ring

Eileen Ring, a popular school bus driver and longtime foster mother, died Aug. 5 after a period of declining health. She was 80.

Mrs. Ring drove a school bus for Gorham, Scarborough and Westbrook schools for nearly 40 years. Her daughter, Maryanne Alhamdany of Gorham, said Monday that she knew all the kids’ names and addresses, and was known for handing out candy and crafts to them.

Alhamdany said her mother had a big impact on kids’ lives.

“She loved driving a school bus,” Alhamdany said. “She always told us whatever you do, be happy. If you’re not happy, it’s not worth doing.”

Mrs. Ring, of Gorham, was remembered by family Monday as a loving and giving woman who had a soft spot for kids.

She grew up in Massachusetts. Her parents divorced when she was young, so she went to live with her grandparents. She was raised with her aunts and uncles.

The experience led Mrs. Ring to become a foster parent. She and her husband took in more than 100 foster children over 15 years.

“We always had a houseful of kids,” Alhamdany said. “She loved it. She lived for the kids. They brought her so much joy.”

Mrs. Ring was married four times, most recently to Willard Ring, who died more than a year ago. Combined, she raised seven children, including five sons.

Mrs. Ring was described as a no-nonsense mother who wasn’t afraid to say no or set boundaries. Alhamdany said her father broke his back when she was young, which left him disabled. Her mother was the breadwinner, working several jobs to provide for the family. In addition to her work as a bus driver, she worked as a certified nursing assistant and cashier at 7-Eleven in Gorham.

“You couldn’t negotiate with her,” her daughter said, chucking. “When she said ‘No,’ it was no. You just didn’t even bother. You knew better. Arguing wasn’t going to get you anywhere. It was only going to make it worse. If you wanted to do something and she said ‘No,’ that was it. We all respected her. She raised five boys between my sister and I. She got the no thing down pretty good. ”

Alhamdany said she admired her mother’s strength, perseverance and generosity. She said their house was always home to their friends.

“We were a paycheck-to-paycheck kind of a family and she made it stretch,” her daughter said. “She made it work. She never let any of our friends go hungry. No one ever sat at her table without being offered something to eat or drink.”

Mrs. Ring’s health began to decline over the past few years. She was home when she died. Her daughter said she will miss her.

“I saw her every day,” her daughter said, choking up.

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