Audrey Nelson never thought she’d be a postmistress.
She only did it because her friend – former postmistress Bonnie Fouchier – needed her help.
That was in 1995. Four years later, she took over the job and has been the face of the Lone Butte post office for nearly 30 years. Every day, she comes in half an hour early to organize the mail room before opening the doors. Catching up with customers and getting the latest news and gossip is the best part of her day.
“I love it, I absolutely love it,” Nelson, 63, said. “The people are the best. There are friends, family, new acquaintances and people I’ve known for over 30 years. You get to meet them and see them at least once in a blue moon to chat.”
On Sept. 15, Nelson will retire, giving someone else the chance to take over.
“It’s time,” she said.
The Lone Butte post office is a hub for the community, although it has seen changes over the year.
One of Nelson’s early responsibilities was replacing broken mailboxes. The “big green mailboxes” were made of heavy steel. She would have to enlist her husband to bring the livestock trailer to transport 15 of the boxes at a time. The work has since been subcontracted out.
In the office itself, she would handle “10 times” more letters, especially phone bills. She misses them.
“We used to get mounds and mounds of them,” Nelson said. “The younger generation has no idea how to address a letter – trust me, I know. Everything is email now but I prefer to get a card. It means more that you’ve taken the time to search for a card and get it in the mail.”
But she acknowledges the worst time of the year was Christmas. It was always “hell,” she said, because of all the parcels. There are fewer letters these days but she can barely get around the post room with all the packages from Amazon, FedEx and Purolator. Sometimes she only has a one-foot wide path to the washroom.
“Especially with COVID for the last two years, we had no storage. We had parcels on the floor, up top, in carts and we were trying to squeeze parcels everywhere,” Nelson said. “If the 100 Mile post office had to take on what I have, they’d have to build another post office.”
In addition to organizing the mail room, Nelson manages payroll and works closely with the postal worker who delivers the mail to Bridge Lake and Deka Lake. She’s assisted by her friend Lori Bachmeier, whom she would like to see succeed her as postmaster. Bachmeier has worked with her for 15 years and knows the job inside and out. Nelson is confident she’ll be able to hit the ground running if her application is accepted.
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Nelson, meanwhile, can’t wait to put her feet up. She plans to do some fishing next year.
“It will be like a long holiday,” she said. “I’ve worked here from 1996 casual, then part-time and then as postmaster so it’s time to give somebody else the job.”