A Masterful Goodbye
Times Staff Report
A total of 278 years of experience evaporated from Floyd County Post Offices this week, when nine postmasters retired from their positions.
Tuesday was expected to be the last day for postmasters Debbie Dingus (Auxier), Shirley Minix (David), Janice Cooley (Hueysville), Trula Meade (Melvin), Betty King (Minnie), Edith Risner (Prestonsburg), Darla Click (Printer), Jan Smith (Stanville) and Cindy Stewart (Wheelwright).
Shirley Minix, who became postmaster at the David Post office in 1999, is the longest active employee who will be retiring this year, having started her postal career in 1972. In those 40 years, Minix says the most difficult part was the advent of computers. “I almost quit,” said Minix.
Minix says she plans to grow a garden and that she and her husband are currently working on building a new home. Still, she will miss the post office.
“It’s been a really good job,” said Minix. “I’ve tried my best to be a good postmaster.”
Debbie Dingus, postmaster at Auxier, began her career as a mail carrier in 1984. Dingus worked as a mail carrier for 22 years before being promoted to postmaster five years ago.
“It was a big challenge switching from carrier to postmaster,” Dingus said. “I liked being outside in the community, but I liked being inside getting to know people as well.”
Dingus says she plans to take some time in retirement to help her daughter with babysitting.
“I have mixed emotions, ” Dingus said of retiring. “I’m glad but sad.”
Prestonsburg Postmaster Edith Risner, of Abbott Creek, has decided to hang up her mail pouch, after working for the United States Postal Service for 35 years.
She began working in 1978 as a city carrier for the USPS, delivering mail to the entire city of Prestonsburg. In 1987, she was named postmaster at Dana, but in 1988 she moved back to the Prestonsburg Post Office as a supervisor before being named postmaster in 1991.
Risner said she will miss her employees and customers the most.
“It was the right time for me to go to make room for the younger people,” she added. “Technology really changed the automation of the mail, everything used to be hand-sorted.”
When asked about her legendary customer service, which often saw her arriving to work early or staying late, she shrugged it off saying. “I just felt like it was part of my job.”
Risner is married to her husband, Bobby, and has a son, Robert and a grandson, Connor, who she is looking forward to spending more time with.
Cindy Stewart, of Wheelwright, sure did follow in her father’s footsteps. Bill Harris served for 31 years as the postmaster at the Wheelwright post office before his daughter, Cindy, took the job and has been in that same position for the past 19 years, until today.
“I was just going to fade into the sunset,” Stewart joked, adding it was the right time to retire.
“There’s been a tremendous amount of change. When I started there was no route, so everybody came to the office to get their mail,” she said. “You got to see people when you went to get your mail. It was a big thing.”
Stewart started her career as a postmaster leave replacement, and was also a part-time clerk and served as postmaster at Minnie.
“I will miss the people the most,” Stewart said. “There are good people in this community. I’ll miss the people. I grew up here and live here.”
Stewart is married to her husband, Joe, with two children, Olivia Newsome and Gabriel Stewart and four grandchildren.
Melvin Postmaster Trula Meade wasted no time in beginning her retirement the right way. She was already out of town on vacation and could not be reached for this story.
However, Connie Jackson, one of her coworkers at the Melvin Post Office, praised Meade for her helpfulness to other postal employees. She said Meade and Wheelwright’s Stewart were the two people employees from around the region would call for advice on how to handle the workings of the post office.
“We’re going to miss her really bad,” Jackson said. “She’d go out of her way to help customers, staying late or whatever it took.”
Betty King hopes to do a little traveling, now that she has retired from the Minnie Post Office. But it’s not like she hasn’t already traveled quite a bit, having worked at post offices in Floyd, Knott, Pike and Perry counties during her 34-year career, she has been postmaster at Minnie since 1997.
King said she will most miss her interactions with the customers who called her “Miss Betty” and who she regarded as friends.
“I’ve made some everlasting friends, and I’m going to miss them so much,” King said.
Darla Click says she feels it is “wonderful” now is retiring from the Printer Post Office after 27 years with the postal service.
Click said during her 27 years, the biggest challenge she faced was the advent of automation. She said while machines are much quicker at doing a lot of the sorting that used to be done by hand, she believes old-fashioned hand-sorting provided a human touch that cannot be duplicated.
Click has no definitive plans for her retirement, preferring to “just take it day by day.”
Stanville Postmaster Jan Smith, who is also retiring, after having worked for the postal service for 29 years, could not be reached for this story.
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