Mourning a beloved bus driver: Community celebrates the life of Alice Lane

Allison Arthur aarthur@ptleader
Posted 8/29/17

Wendy Jensen rode Jefferson Transit buses for years and was always happy to see Alice Lane at the wheel.

One day a few years ago, there was “an event” between Lane and Jensen as Jensen calls …

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Mourning a beloved bus driver: Community celebrates the life of Alice Lane

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Wendy Jensen rode Jefferson Transit buses for years and was always happy to see Alice Lane at the wheel.

One day a few years ago, there was “an event” between Lane and Jensen as Jensen calls it, a moment she holds dear today.

“I was having a hard time, and it was my birthday, and I told Alice it wasn’t a good day. My stop came, and she said, ‘I hope you have a good day.’”

Jensen went to work. Hours passed. Jensen went home. Then she saw a Jefferson Transit bus stop across the street from where she lived, and watched as Alice Lane ran across the street and knocked on her door.

“I open the door, and there she is with a present,” said Jensen last week. “I can’t believe she’s gone. She was the spirit of our town in a way.”

There were dozens of those kinds of stories being told and retold last week after word spread that Lane had died unexpectedly Aug. 16. She was 62 years old.

Lane had been driving a Jefferson Transit bus for more than two decades.

A small memorial at the Port Townsend Haines Street Park and Ride lot popped up last week with flowers and a sign that read simply, “In loving memory of Alice Lane, the heart and soul of Jefferson Transit.”

Lane’s brother, Tom Lane, said there is such a huge community of people who have been sharing their memories with the family. A group of women she rowed with held a service for her, rowing out to an island, and Jefferson Transit drivers and management also had a service Aug. 27.

Tom Lane said a service in October likely would be for family only. He said Rocky Friedman, owner of the Rose Theatre, had offered the theater as a venue for a service for Lane, but added that it probably would be too small to hold everyone in Jefferson County who might want to celebrate her life.

“She has a huge community here. Jefferson Transit and people she worked with and then the rowing, swimming and running communities, and music and symphony, and then friends and family,” he said.

“Everybody knows Alice, and she was loved by everybody and known by very, very many. She did so many things,” Tom Lane said.

He recalled how his petite sister – she weighed about 120 pounds – also was licensed to skipper 100-ton boats, how she was a triathlete, a knitter, a woman who went fishing and tatted, made things out of wood and collected wine stoppers, and wrote in her journal every day for 35 years, to mention a few of the things she did.

NOT JUST A BUS DRIVER

Darrell Conder, who has written a history of public transit in Jefferson County and has been a transit advocate for more than 40 years, was having trouble containing his words about Alice Lane. There were so many stories to tell about her, he said.

“Alice was not just a bus driver. Alice Lane was a friend, a counselor and a big sister whose love and compassion for all things living became legendary,” he wrote.

Several years ago, some Tlingit natives, visiting from Alaska, missed the last Saturday bus to Poulsbo and were stranded in Port Townsend until Monday. Alice ended her 12-hour shift, came back to town in her own car and drove them to the ferry on Bainbridge Island.

“They offered her money; she settled for a native blessing,” he wrote.

And she grieved for people less fortunate. When a longtime rider died one night in the cold at Kah Tai Lagoon Nature Park, Lane brought flowers to where that man had died.

“And there was the elderly, feeble bus passenger who had outlived most of her family and friends. Alice would use her day off to help out with laundry and to visit.

“You could fill your entire paper with things I’ve heard about her doing,” Conder said, adding that when he saw Lane coming to where he lived with a rose in hand, he knew she was headed to brighten the day of someone who lives in his building.

DEFENSE OF DRIVERS

Fellow bus driver Lloyd Eisenman said Lane’s death was “extremely hard on the drivers.”

Like Conder, Eisenman recalled how Lane was touched by the death of a homeless man in Kah Tai.

“She took flowers to where he had died because she was your friend even after death,” he said. Tom Lane also shared that Alice Lane had paid for the man’s cremation and then connected with his family after he had died.

“If you come to Jefferson County and you didn’t know Alice, you are from some other county,” Eisenman said last week while sitting in a bus, taking a break.

“But if you knew her, you would never know everything about her,” he shared.

Although she was tiny in stature, Lane was no pushover.

Several years ago, Alice Lane saw another transit driver embroiled in a scuffle with a passenger. She intervened.

Former County Commissioner John Austin, a transit rider who was on the transit board, recalled that Lane knew the names of all regular riders and was known for paying attention to each and every one of them.

“Every time you got on the bus and saw Alice, you knew you were going to have a better day,” said one rider. “She made her passengers feel like family.”

Jefferson Transit general manager Tammi Rubert said on Monday that Lane will be missed.

“What an amazing humanitarian Alice was. She deeply cared about the people around her, and we will celebrate her remarkable life,” Rubert said.

Tom Lane, a former union representative for air traffic controllers, acknowledged that his sister did not always see eye to eye with transit management over the years, and that was no secret.

“Alice always came to the defense of the drivers and the people who rode the bus,” Tom Lane acknowledged.

“I can tell you that Alice was passionate about a lot of things and those things make Alice Alice,” Tom Lane said.

In a letter to the editor in January, Alice Lane took time to write about an incident on Dec. 26, 2016 when the Jefferson Transit family came together to make it through a stormy night.

“I’m so fortunate to work with an exceptional group of professional drivers and mechanics who get so little recognition for the hallmark of quality they bring to their job every day,” Alice Lane wrote.

Jensen said last week that she gets goosebumps thinking of how special Lane made her feel on that day when Lane went out of her way to drop a box of truffles off at her house.

“It was one of those moments when you recognize humanity, and I recognized her light. It was powerful,” Jensen said.

“If all of us in the world treated everybody the way Alice treated us, we’d have no problems in the world.”

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