Not many postal workers get a retirement sendoff that includes a proclamation from one city and a key to another city.
Then again, not many postal workers have the career that Sue Yeager has had.
On Dec. 31, Yeager, 62 of Tallmadge, celebrated her last day as a U.S. Postal Service employee after 33 years, about 30 of which has been on the same route in Munroe Falls.
During that time, she has gotten to know the residents and their habits, and on a number of occasions, she has prevented tragedies and made headlines.
In June 1999, for example, she noticed that a 76-year-old resident had not picked up his mail. She alerted a neighbor, who found the resident was dehydrated and had forgotten to take his medications, according to a Beacon Journal article written at the time.
Then in December 2000, she found a 3-year-old boy who had wandered out into the cold wearing only a sweat suit and tennis shoes. Yeager helped get him back home to his family.
“She’s just consciously aware, and everyone knows her name,” said Yvonne Cherkala, who had Yeager as her postal worker since 1988. “She’s really been devoted to the people on her route. She’s caring and loving and I could not let her retire and just walk off into the sunset. I just couldn’t.”
Once Cherkala learned about Yeager’s retirement, she started reaching out to neighbors and city officials to arrange a surprise gathering on Yeager’s last day.
Yeager, who worked out of the Stow Post Office, was told to be at the Munroe Falls Post Office at 1:30 p.m. Friday but was not told why.
“I knew something was going on, but I didn’t expect anything like that,” she said. “I pulled in, and I though, ‘What the heck are all these people doing here?’ I didn’t know where to park, and then I realized that they were all there for me.”
Yeager was met by Stow Mayor John Pribonic, Munroe Falls Mayor James Armstrong, neighbors, coworkers and her family, including husband, Cliff, son Isaac and daughters Stephanie Yeager and Robyn Tucker, who both came from out of state.
“I don’t think she had any idea, but my dad’s not one to keep a secret, so you never know,” Isaac said.
Pribonic gave her a proclamation, while Armstrong presented her with a certificate, a letter and key to the city of Munroe Falls, a practice that “dates back to medieval times when cities were walled and guarded. Having a key was an honor and symbolized freedom of the recipient to enter and leave the city at will as a trusted guest,” Armstrong wrote.
Yeager’s supervisor Shannon Wides said this kind of sendoff is unusual for a mail carrier but fitting for Yeager.
“Carriers usually do not stay on a route for more than five years at a time tops,” she said. “They’re usually moving up in the ranks to get better routes, but Sue has been dedicated her entire time to Munroe Falls. She is already very missed, and definitely the most efficient worker I had and just came in with a smile every day.”
Yeager said she kept her route because she liked the blend of walking and driving and because her residents became her family.
“She really did take care of that route,” Wides said.
Resident Carol Lewis, who had Yeager as her mail carrier for 19 years, agreed.
“Sue always gave more than 100%,” said Lewis, who was also Yeager’s children’s kindergarten teacher at Riverview Elementary School. “She would inquire about neighbors’ wellbeing when their mailboxes hadn’t been emptied for some time. She hand delivered mail to people who had surgery and couldn’t get down our street to the community mailbox. She greeted residents with a smile, and how she soldiered on regardless of the weather is beyond me.”
Jackie Lewison, who also lived on Yeager’s route, added that Yeager “always knew who was in the hospital, who had a new baby, and who was old and had difficulty with heavy packages. She shared in our happiness and our grief and, likewise, we shared in hers.”
“It’s amazing to see how much my mom has affected so many lives and touching so many people,” Isaac said.
Yeager and her husband, who also is retired, plan to travel to some national parks, run a 10K and run a half marathon in Disney World in October.
Reporter Krista S. Kano can be reached at 330-541-9416, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @KristaKanoABJ.