NATCHEZ – A motorcade of about 25 school buses left the bus terminal on Lynda Lee Drive at 10:30 a.m. Friday escorted by law enforcement.
They passed every school in the Natchez Adams, Frazier, McLaurin, Susie B. West, Natchez Early College, Freshman Academy, Natchez High School Morgantown, Robert Lewis Magnet, and Braden Administration Building school district.
Greg West said the school bus convoy was staged in honor of Ernest “Wayne” Strickland, a school bus operations supervisor who died of complications from COVID-19 on Monday.
He was 55 years old.
Natchez Adams School District, Durham Bus Services and Ecco Ride participated in this unique memorial, he said.
“I’ve known him for over 13 years,” said West, a bus driver and friend of Strickland. “He fell ill before the start of the school year and has been in the hospital ever since. “
Strickland worked for the Natchez Adams School District for over 30 years starting when he left North Natchez High School in 1983, he said.
He has devoted much of his life to school transport services, working with Durham School Service drivers and with Ecco Ride when the district changed bus contracts before the start of this school year.
Natchez Adams School District Superintendent Fred Butcher was one of the school bus drivers participating in the procession on Friday.
“It was an emotional moment for me,” said Butcher after congratulating the pilots and the people who coordinated the event. “I know how much he loved his job. … He loved children. I think that’s why he stayed with it. When the new company came on board he had the opportunity to go with Durham but chose to stay. It made us all happy.
Beatrice Collins, who rode with Butcher on Friday, worked with Strickland as a bus driver before moving to human resources and they were good friends, she said.
“He was always happy, helpful, hardworking and always did whatever he could to make things happen,” she said. “After hearing the news on Tuesday, it took my breath away. … I had the impression that he was doing better.
Butcher said he used to joke with Strickland and say he had a hard drive in his head to help him remember all the bus routes. He could name the bus number of any memory bus line, he said.
“It’s because he’s been doing this job for so long,” he said. “If you called him with a problem, he would always give you two or three solutions.”
Zandra McDonald-Green, who is the assistant superintendent of the Natchez Adams school district, described Strickland as a loving and caring person with “the best customer service voice of anyone I have ever known because he was always pleasant. “.
She said, “She was a wonderful person. He was well known and loved by students, parents and employees. He went above and beyond his call to ensure the safety of our students during their transportation to and from school and to other functions. “
Services for Strickland were scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday at the Daughters of Zion Baptist Church parking lot, followed by a funeral at the Daughters of Zion Baptist Church cemetery.
“Our prayers and condolences go out to the members of his family,” said Butcher. “He will be truly missed. “