After more than 28 years as postmaster for Linwood, Sharon Hunsperger knows just about everybody in town, and has compiled a long list of stories. She’ll be taking those memories with her when she retires Mar. 25. The lone full-time employee at the Linwood post office, Hunsperger does everything from sorting mail to selling stamps and just about anything else you can imagine. One might think it’s a lonely job, but she’s often got a steady stream of customers, the people she’ll miss most after leaving the post.
Linwood has general delivery mail, requiring each resident from the ‘old’ and the ‘new’ subdivisions to come to the post office to get their mail.
“Twenty years later and it’s still called the ‘new’ subdivision,” Hunsperger laughed.
When Hunsperger grew up in Linwood, everyone in town really did know everyone else. About 20 years ago a new subdivision was built, after which residents were surprised to see people they didn’t know picking up the mail. Hunsperger’s job allows her to be familiar with every name and most faces in Linwood; it’s served her well.
She remembers stopping a mail fraud and identity theft ring just by knowing her customers. A name she didn’t recognize appeared on mail with a ‘hold mail’ request, which seemed odd.
“I thought, ‘why wouldn’t they just come in here and tell me to hold it,’” she said. She asked the resident who didn’t know anything about the mix-up and took her mail, discovering multiple credit cards ordered under her accounts.
The incident was reported to police, but days later the fraudsters made an appearance.
“I said, ‘well that mail’s already been picked up’ and he left,” said Hunsperger. “I quick ran out and got a licence plate number. I didn’t have a phone in the office then, so I went over to the second hand store and phoned the police.”
The thieves were tracked to a car rental company in Toronto. “In the city they probably would have gotten away with it because you don’t know the customers,” she said.
Hunsperger received what she calls a ‘pat on the back’ from Canada Post for her quick thinking and due diligence.
Not every day at the post office is filled with detective work, but it is rarely boring. Hunsperger said nothing was as interesting to her as when, while working part-time for the previous postmaster, a queen bee was delivered through the mail.
“She could hear this buzzing. They’re really expensive,” Hunsperger trails off, knowing what comes next.
“I think it survived, but she was stomping on stuff.” The story is funny now 28 years later, but even at a time before letter bombs and anthrax, the buzzing box was unnerving.
Boxes containing live animals are still not unusual and this will be the first year in a long time Hunsperger won’t be around to hear the chirps of baby chicks and ducklings when she opens up in the morning.
“They usually ship a box of them, day-old chicks,” she said. “I can remember walking in when the mail was left in the lobby in the morning and hearing the chirps and thinking ‘oh, we’ve got chicks today.”
The chicks can’t be fed by Hunsperger, so she calls customers as soon as possible to make sure the babies get the care they need to stay alive.
Hunsperger wishes she was able to spend a week sharing all of this invaluable information with her replacement, but Canada Post has yet to fill the postion. The Linwood Post Office will still be operational in
Hunsperger’s absence, with part-time staff temporarily filling the gap.
The list of things she won’t miss about the job is very short, containing just two items. The first is updating Canada Post manuals. And the second?
“Flyers!” she laughs. “We don’t get as many as we used to, we used to get up to 20 a day.”
Proving even postal employees hate junk mail, Hunsperger said the repetitive task of sliding the same flyer in each box was mind-numbing, but she doesn’t dwell on that part of her day.
“I’ve enjoyed it, it’s been good to me and the people are great.”
Even though she will miss the office, after working six days a week for nearly 30 years, Hunsperger said she is more than ready to retire. She’s looking forward to days she doesn’t have to plan.
“I’m tired and I’m ready to retire,” she said. “You can do what you want, when you want.”
The first thing on her retirement agenda? Hunsperger chuckles, “I’m going to de-clutter my house.”