Anita Nelson is a familiar face at the Moose Lake Post Office. She has met a lot of people and has seen many changes in her 35 years with the United States Postal Service.
Anita is leaving that all behind on Friday, January 3, when she retires.
"I know everybody by their first names," she said in a recent interview. "I even know their dogs' names. I see cards coming to their dogs."
Anita began working for the postal service in 1978.
"I was hired to work in the Kerrick Post Office," she said. "I was guaranteed two hours a week plus time when the postmaster was on sick leave or on vacation."
Back in those days, one mail carrier had a contract to deliver mail for two post offices.
"He delivered mail for Bruno and Kerrick," Anita explained. "He would deliver mail for Bruno in the morning and then come to Kerrick and deliver in the afternoon. Normally the carriers have to sort their own mail, but we had it all sorted for him to save him time."
Anita said that she always has been a window clerk until recently, when the job title was changed to sales associate.
Back in the days when she started, everything was sorted by hand. Reports had to be filled out by hand.
"Now everything is on the computer," Anita said. "We do our reports on the computer every day. People can go on the computer and track their packages. That would never have happened when I first started. Things are a lot simpler in that respect."
And the mail is brought to the post office already sorted.
"The mail is broken down into Route 1 and Route 2 and for the box section, with the letters all in order," said Anita. "The carriers can take the trays straight to the street."
Although email and messaging are popular forms of communication today, Anita said that people still often communicate by mail.
"The volume of mail has changed," she said. "They always tell us that the volume of mail is down, but we get a lot of mail in Moose Lake. People still send a lot of Christmas cards. Email just doesn't replace a personal card or note.
"And we've seen a tremendous increase in the number of packages we get because so many people order online. We share delivery of packages with FedEx and UPS. It's nothing to have 200-300 packages go out on the route. Sometimes the carriers have to come back during their routes to get a second load because of the number of packages."
Anita has also seen people coming to the Moose Lake Post Office when the post offices in Barnum and Sturgeon Lake have closed for the day.
"Some are only open for four hours a day, and others are open for six hours a day," she said. "We have more personnel and work split shifts so we can be open longer."
Anita said that she is going to miss her co-workers and the customers after she retires. She has worked at the Moose Lake Post Office since 1990 after working in the post office in Askov for four years. She has worked under three postmasters: Dick Linde, Gary Fisher and now, Roger Monnier
"My co-workers have remained pretty consistent over the years," said Anita. "We got the new post office in 2000. That was really nice. There is so much more room in the new office. It's always nice to work in a new place."
Anita and her husband, Ted, live near Kerrick. She said that she is looking forward to spending time at home.
Anita said that she had been raised in Missouri and met Ted after a cousin, who was dating a young man in the service, asked if she would like to write to another serviceman.
"I started writing to him and we ended up getting married," said Anita. "We came to Kerrick and bought 40 acres from his parents. We are still there."
The couple has raised a son and a daughter. Their son, Toby, lives near Kerrick, but their daughter is in pharmacy school in Seattle. Neither have married and given the Nelsons grandchildren.
Ted sells excess equipment for the state.
"Anything that has a motor and is not needed is brought to General Andrews tree nursery," Anita explained. "It can come from all over the United States. He sells it for the state."
She said that Ted doesn't plan to retire until he's 65.
Meanwhile, Anita has plans to weave more rugs on her loom and spend more time in her garden next summer. She said that she is not a traveler.
She brings her rugs and other craft items to Art in the Park in July each year.
"I am just going to enjoy being at home and having the freedom to do what I want to do whenever I want to do it," she said.
As she looks back over her last 23 years at the Moose Lake Post Office, Anita has fond memories.
"Moose Lake has always been a nice place to work," she said. "Everyone has been really friendly."