All her kids are loaded onto the school bus headed to another band competition. First it was her own children and then it was someone else’s. For more than thirty years, Ms. Rita Eddington has driven a school bus for Anderson County Public Schools, including too many band trips to count. She drove Gary Burton’s students to competitions, then Nancy Drury’s, and now Patrick Brady’s bunch. And she has loved each and every one of her “kids” along the way.
Eddington is not one who just looks at getting students to their destination as her sole purpose either. She is also there to support and encourage, evidenced by the fact that any of our students could look to the stands during a band competition and see “Ms. Rita” cheering them on. Even before exiting the bus, when band director Mr. Patrick Brady would outline his expectations for behavior at each competition, Eddington said that she would also contribute. “I’d throw in my two cents also. I’d tell them that my expectation was that they come in first place. They usually did, and even when they didn’t I was proud of them,” she stated.
She calls all the students who climb the steps to enter her bus, in the band or otherwise, her “kids” and feels she has a special connection with all of them. Her kids, it seems, feel the same in return: singing her happy birthday, waving to her in the stands or giving her a thumbs up, and always greeting her by name. So, when the band was named the 2021 4A State Champion, Eddington was so excited for the students that she almost felt like she had won the championship herself as well.
When Eddington received the text from Brady to do her best to attend Anderson County High School Marching Band’s Championship Ring Ceremony on Sunday, April 24th, she was happy to have yet another chance to cheer on her kids because, as she noted, “people don’t realize how much time these kids put into what they do and they deserve recognition.” Little did Eddington know that Brady had a little something special in mind for her also. “Ms. Rita” was presented with a pendant at the ceremony to match the rings given to all 63 members of the marching band (made up of 7th-12th grade students)-- a ring with the marching band’s logo surrounded by diamonds. Eddington was thrilled to be honored with that gift. She deserved it; after all, she is and always has been an integral part of the team. Of the rings, Brady noted how much they meant for the students when he said, “Besides having the Governor’s Cup, this completely solidified that we won state. It was a great reminder.” It was a reminder of all of the hard work, the dedication, and the people (like Eddington) who helped the 2021 ACHS Marching Band become champions.
And now that she has been crowned a champion as well, she’s ready to go out on top and look forward to her next step: retirement. With laughter in her voice, she recalled, “I told Mr. Brady that I was going to retire, and he said, ‘Oh no you’re not!’ But I think it’s time for me to stop driving and become a spectator instead.” While Eddington is looking forward to good health and spending time with her grandchildren during her upcoming retirement, she is saddened about one thing: “I’m going to miss my kids,” she noted. While retirement means Eddington will be able to do what she wants, it’s probably safe to say that, at any given band competition, those kids can look up and will still see Ms. Rita’s smiling face cheering them to their next victory.