Rural mail carriers a special breed

Published 1:27 pm Tuesday, January 23, 2024

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By Ellen Bishop

For the Enterprise

Having worked for the Postal Service many years gives me perspective on the duties of employees in many of the craft areas.

In the eyes of the public, it may appear to be an easy cushy kind of job that any idiot can do.

But, they do not see all the work of so many to get one of their letters or packages to its destination.

Sometimes, postal employees are treated somewhere between being a child and a slave,  are always expected to have a high level of expertise, be willing to sacrifice personal time with commitment, have the ability to handle tough situations, and not be afraid of hard work.  It is a challenging job that tests the limits emotionally and physically.

Anyone who makes it to retirement must have found something they liked and should be commended.

Since my own retirement, several coworkers have also taken that step of evolving (in Serena Williams’ word).  Now again, it’s time for another seasoned mail carrier to begin the next phase of her life.

As Fred Rogers quotes, “Often when you are at the end of something, you’re at the beginning of something else.”

To my friend and former coworker, congratulations Barbara Koontz, you have earned this milestone to do something else with your life.

Barbara began her postal career as a rural carrier associate in 1983 with no guarantee of benefits and regular hours until she became full-time seven years later.

She had five out of six  of her children while working at the post office. Her mother helped out a lot as did her dad. Her dad was a lifesaver more than once, coming on the route to help when she had a flat tire or when something went wrong with her car (which she had to provide for the job).  Barbara stated that when she would call him in the beginning, he would just ask “where you at?”  Then, it got to where he would say “what do you want?”

She remembers one day in particular when it was icy, her dad was helping by driving her around the route. They were going down a steep icy hill with a one lane bridge at the bottom. He was putting the car in neutral to get down the hill. She looked at him and said she was afraid they were going to hit the bridge. Her dad said he was afraid they were not going to hit the bridge.

Those kind of moments are precious memories.

Barbara also contributes her longevity on the job to Arthur, her husband of 46 years. He has always been there helping through thick and thin, giving her an alarm clock radio at the beginning which is still in use; now no longer needed.  Maybe it can be handed down to daughter, Callahan, to make sure she gets to work at the post office on time.

Only four cars (Nova, Buick, Subaru, Jeep) have been driven by Barbara during these 40 years. She’s typically driven around 59 miles per day which adds up to over 15,000 miles per year.  That’s a testament to these vehicles or to Arthur’s ability in the mechanical realm of things.

It’s no wonder she was awarded with the Million Mile Club Award a few years ago.

During the party given in Barbara’s honor on Friday, Jan. 12, she shared with friends, family and coworkers what has been most precious to her about the job.

It is not only about carrying the mail, but getting to know her customers and their children, seeing those children grow up, and keeping a watchful eye out for someone who may  need help.

One such occasion was when an elderly man ran to her because his grandson was having a seizure; another time an elderly man was hanging upside down on his outside stair rails as she was driving by.

And, it’s always sweet when children are out in the summertime selling lemonade.

Mail carriers are a vital part of our small communities, sometimes they are the  only person that will be there to notice that something is awry.

Barbara stated that the people on her route will always hold a special place in her heart.

And, with the outpouring of love she was shown on her last day of work (Jan. 13), I feel sure she holds a special place in her customer’s hearts as well.

No more roller coaster rides down gravel roads with pot holes (or ice), time for endless naps with better days ahead to enjoy this new chapter of your life.

Congratulations, my friend.