NEW RUSSIA — After more than a third of a century, Margaret McCoy has sold her last stamp and canceled her last letter.
New Russia’s postmaster has retired after 34 years.
About 30 New Russians were at the post office in the Elizabethtown hamlet at closing time Tuesday to applaud and hug McCoy as she locked the door and then gave the key to JoAnne Petro, who has assumed her duties.
Some good-natured teasing ensued, as it had been customary for McCoy to lock the door, put her belongings in her vehicle and then walk back to jiggle the handle at least one more time.
“Hey, Margaret, shouldn’t you check it again?” someone called out.
This brought a smile to the teary-eyed McCoy.
Known as “Maggie,” “Aunt Maggie” and “Aunt Margaret,” McCoy has watched youngsters grow up, have kids and return with them for a lollipop or other treats. Even Wilber, the hamlet’s fabled pot-bellied pig, would waddle up to the porch, and if the door was open, walk in for a snack.
Once, when Wilber decided to bask in the sun on the porch, McCoy had to shoo him off to allay the fears of a tourist who wanted to mail a postcard.
Canines could also count on McCoy to reward them for good behavior when they sat patiently outside the door or in vehicles while their people picked up the mail.
“I will miss the daily interactions with the people,” lamented McCoy, “but I want to be able to do other things before I get too old.”
In addition, a determining factor was the uncertainty of the facility’s future, as it is among many rural post offices on a closure list.
McCoy kept track of virtually everyone’s birthday, often getting cards for folks. She’d put a stamp on the envelope, cancel it and then place it in the person’s box.
When someone needs information about what is going on in the area, McCoy has often been the first person they called. Countless wayward motorists stopped by after being confounded by “Malfunction Junction,” where routes 9 and 73 diverge.
And then there are times she had to inform tourists from Russia — the country — that their ancestors had not settled in the valley, despite of the hamlet’s name.
McCoy sometimes found herself making the post office phone available during emergencies, due to no cellphone service in the hamlet.
Last summer, when a patron did not pick up her mail for a day, the postmaster attempted to call her. Getting no answer, she summoned a resident to check on the woman, and when there was no response, they called 911.
State Police found the elderly woman on the floor, severely dehydrated. Another few hours and she would not have survived.
ABOVE THE CALL
McCoy spruced up the post office with hanging baskets and flowers to fill the beds at her own expense and decorated according to seasonal themes
“It’s been wonderful to work with Maggie the past 12 years,” said Becky Remington, who brings the mail to New Russia as a highway contract route driver.
“The time has flown by, and I will miss bantering with her every morning. She has been a dedicated employee for sure and often goes over and above the call of duty.”
McCoy was often called upon for a variety of “above the call” tasks, among them putting drops in a patron’s eyes and bringing a customer to Elizabethtown to do grocery shopping, during her lunch break.
“This is a small post office, and so everyone who comes in here is like family,” she said.
“Margaret McCoy is the bedrock of the New Russia community,” said Elizabethtown Town Supervisor Margaret Bartley, who lives in the hamlet. “Her smile and cheerful advice, delivered from the post office window, has been a constant and dependable source of information for over three decades.”
As well, said Bartley, who is voluntary New Russia historian, McCoy has proved a prime resource when it comes to local history.
“She deserves a well-earned retirement, but we hope she will still be a regular visitor in our little post office,” the supervisor said via email.
“Margaret (McCoy) has always been willing to help everyone,” said Therese Denton, holding back tears. “She will be missed so much.
“If you ever needed anything, you knew you could always call the post office, and Margaret would do whatever she could.”
Email Alvin Reiner at: email@example.com