Four postmasters with 108½ years of service celebrated their retirements with a dinner thrown by friends and family at Mile High Burger. Curtis Nolen, Jewel Greer, Steve Slaughter and Laura Shumate all hung up their mail bags, so to speak, on July 31.
Steve Slaughter is the longest serving member of the group, starting as a part-time carrier with the Galax Post Office in 1981. He became the supervisor in Galax in 1988 before moving to Cana as the postmaster in 1992. He has spent the last 14 years as postmaster at Willis.
Slaughter said expected changes in the U.S. Postal Service led to his retirement.
“I’m sort of taking an early retirement,” said the 51-year-old Slaughter. “I hadn’t planned to retire, but with the changes coming in the post office, I couldn’t stay here as postmaster. If I stayed here and worked part-time, I’d have to take a cut in salary. My other option would to seek employment in another area, and I didn’t want to do that. Hopefully, I can find another job, although this is not the best time to be looking for a job.”
Slaughter added that retiring was “a hard decision,” in part, because of the friends he had made during his tenure at Willis.
“I’ll miss the customers, and the friends I’ve made over the years and the ones I work with now,” he said.
Laura Shumate’s career has included many stops – Roanoke, Galax, Fries, Woodlawn, Elk Creek – but most of her time, 15 years, was spent at Independence. Her last eight years of service has been as the postmaster at Fancy Gap.
Budget cuts and other changes in the postal service were also factors in Shumate’s decision to retire.
“Retirement is kind of mixed for me because I’m not old enough to draw my full retirement,” said Shumate, who already has another job lined up. “I’m going back to cutting hair, which I did when I was only working part-time at the post office. I’ll be working at Angela By Design in Independence.”
The bright side to her retirement will be the time Shumate gets to spend with her 13-year-old son.
“I’m looking forward to doing some different things and spending more time with my son. This job has been pretty demanding, and I haven’t been able to spend as much time with him as I’d like.”
However, Shumate said she will miss the many people she has come to know in Fancy Gap.
“I’ll miss a lot of good people; miss our customers and the employees. You deal with their life and personal things, you get involved with them, and they become family to you.”
Nolen retired after 27 years of service, including 22 as the postmaster at the Dugspur Post Office. He began his career in Floyd in 1987 as a part-time clerk.
“I’ve got mixed feelings,” said Nolen. “It’s one of those deals where you work with people, so it might be strange not being around them. You get to know the community and the people. They’re good folks and I appreciate them.”
However, Nolen said he does have activities to keep him busy.
“I’ve got a farm and antique cars, and I’m going to take a year and caught up on a few things. I’ve got things to piddle with. If I decide I want to do something, I can always do something else.”
Greer spent four years as a rural carrier before serving as the postmaster at the Lambsburg Post Office for the past 19 years.
“This is the only place I ever wanted to be postmaster, so it worked out beautifully. I can even go home for lunch,” said Greer, who already has plans for her free time. “I’m looking forward to retirement. I’ve got a granddaughter, and a couple of sisters who are going to get me into golf. They’re going to show me how to play and I’ll see if it’s for me.”
Greer added, however, that she would miss “the people in the community and the people I work with. I would like to thank the people in the community and the postal service for the opportunity to serve. I hope I’ve done a good job.”