For the past several decades, a Hutchinson post office clerk would occasionally chat with regular customers and new customers alike while posting packages or letters.
Steve Russell retired on Friday, July 8 after 35 years with the United States Postal Service in Hutchinson.
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“I will miss my colleagues and my clients,” Russell said. “When you have a job like this where your customers appreciate you so much they go out of their way to show that appreciation, how can you not feel like you’ve accomplished something?”
During his last week, Russell’s employees and regular customers brought him gifts, decorated his window and congratulated him.
“They have been very supportive of me over the last few weeks knowing I was retiring and congratulating me,” Russell said. “A customer brought me two boxes of biscuits yesterday.”
Three decades with the US Postal Service
Russell joined the Post in 1987, three years after his wife, Mary Russell, who joined in 1984.
“I worked the night shift for about six years, and then we got our mail sorters, which we sorted completely by hand beforehand,” says Russell.
The sorting machines were just one of the first major changes in the postal service that Russell witnessed.
Eventually, in 2007, he and his wife became window clerks, the two would greet customers, help with packages, and provide shipping information.
“I’ve been up there ever since, except I took a three-year hiatus in 2016 until the first half of 2020,” Russell said. “I came back and it was really funny because people knew me after several years on the window and when I came back they thought I was already retired.”
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Russell said he and his wife worked at the Hutchinson Post for more than 60 years, from the night shift sorting stations to their retirement as window clerks.
Three years ago, Mary Russell retired and began working on projects for her newly purchased home.
“This is where the story gets a little sad,” Russell said. “My wife passed away from COVID last December and we bought a new home after living in South Hutchinson for over 30 years.”
Continuing Mary Russell’s legacy
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After purchasing the home in October 2020, Russell said he and his wife only moved into the new home on Memorial Day last year. At this point, Mary Russell began her many projects.
“She just had plans for everything in this house,” Russell said. “When people come over, I show them what their personality is all over the house.”
Russell said she would start projects alone and typically spend several hours on the phone outdoors or with heavy machinery.
At one point Mary Russell wanted to replace some electrical work in the yard that required digging and instead of hiring a company she decided to do it herself.
“That was a stubborn woman,” Russell said. “She went and rented a trencher and brought it home, got it from the trailer herself and dug this trench. She said, ‘I’ll do it,’ and yes, she did. She wasn’t afraid of things. “
After Mary Russell’s death, Russell said his colleagues at the post office bought a tree to plant in the couple’s garden, but instead decided to ask the ground keepers to plant it in front of the post office.
The groundskeepers agreed, later he wants to put up a plaque with his wife’s name and a brief description of her time in the office.
“I’m looking forward to a new chapter in my life where I’m completing these projects, partly things that she wanted to do, I want to finish them, but then other things that I want to accomplish,” Russell said. “I’ll stay busy.”