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Freeland postmaster retires after 30-year USPS career

Carol Avery stuffs some post office boxes at the Freeland post. She will retire at the end of July, ending a 30-year career with the U.S. Postal Service after seven years as the Freeland postmaster.  - Ben Watanabe / The Record
Carol Avery stuffs some post office boxes at the Freeland post. She will retire at the end of July, ending a 30-year career with the U.S. Postal Service after seven years as the Freeland postmaster.
— image credit: Ben Watanabe / The Record

FREELAND — Though Carol Avery only had one week left before retirement, she came out of her office to help a few customers during a recent late afternoon rush.

Customer service has been a hallmark of Avery’s tenure. For the past nine years, the postmaster set the high standard of friendly greetings and taking time to help people with parcel problems. In the past year, rural carriers were consolidated to the Langley office, leaving Avery with a staff of four clerks, one of whom travels between Freeland and Langley most of the day. The remaining three, all women, became “her girls.”

“I’m going to miss everybody, everybody that makes this place tick,” Avery said.

“People like to come in because it’s a real friendly post office.”

The U.S. Postal Service has well-publicized funding issues as business mail has declined with the advent of email and online bill payments. Still, Avery defended rural locations like Freeland that still handle decent traffic for small businesses.

“We are still the choice for small businesses,” Avery said. “We survived the telegraph, we survived the train, we survived the phone and email.”

The 65-year-old splits her non-work time between Freeland during the week and La Conner on weekends. In the near future, as in Aug. 1 when retirement officially begins for Avery, she will spend lots of time babysitting her grandchildren, gardening and visiting her elderly mother in Seattle. Avery has some travel plans in the fall when she’ll go to the Great Lakes with her family. Retirement was in her sights for this coming winter, but the Postal Service is in the midst of cutting its payroll and postmasters are on the chopping block. She chose early retirement.

“It was time for a 65-year-old lady to leave so a younger person could do the job,” Avery said.

As the postmaster, Avery recalled being a conduit for people to relay their lives to others. Vacations, birthdays, weddings and births were just a smattering of the information she learned as she helped customers, who over time became friends that would bring in cookies and other treats.

“All my customers are so interesting,” Avery said. “I kind of get to live vicariously and see where they’re going on trips.”

One time, Avery said she complimented a customer on her sweater. Next thing she knew, the sweater was hers.

“She just went, ‘Here,’ and took it off,” she said.

There will be a retirement party with cake all day Monday, July 30. Avery said she would like to say goodbye to her customers — her friends.

 

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