Sue Pennin retires after long career at post office
By Dee Longfellow
For The Elmhurst Independent
After 26 years and five months, Sue Pennin has stepped away from her counter at the post office for the last time. The Independent caught up to her during her last few days on the job.
“I can’t believe it, really,” she said. “It hasn’t sunk in yet.”
As much as she looks forward to retirement, Sue also admits she’ll miss the job and the “family” of fellow employees she has grown to know and love.
Sue had previously worked at the post office in Batavia.
“I was lucky to be assigned here after five years [in Batavia], but someone retired and here I am. That’s it, someone has to die or retire in order to have an opening — that’s how much people enjoy working here.
“I wanted to be here and I really liked post office work. I can’t believe sometimes that they pay me to get up and come to work. It’s not a hard job and there are wonderful interesting people that you meet. Most have become like friends, especially regular retail customers who come to the counter. Oh, there’s a few ornery folks, too!”
Asked what was the best part of the job, she quickly answers.
“The people I work with really is like a family. That part is going to be hard. At least ten people have retired here, that’s the way it is, you’re here until you retire. It’s a comfortable environment and you get a job for life with a pension and benefits, but when you’re young, you don’t usually look that far ahead.
“The people who come to the counter are all really nice and that makes the time fly by. I didn’t really feel like I was working.”
Learning the job…
Asked if anything surprised her, she admits until she worked there, she had no idea how much the post office really did. Sue learned to do all kinds of tasks from sorting mail to working the lockboxes to handling dispatch and more.
“We used to sort the letters by hand, putting them in pigeon holes, that’s how we sorted the mail. Now it’s all sorted by machine.”
Once she became immersed in the job, Sue recognized that everything works on a system.
“You don’t really know [how it all works] until you’re behind the scenes. The system moves SO much mail. Each kind of mail has their own system. They’re always updating the system — now, there are even machines that can read handwriting.”
One training exercise she had to do for her position was to memorize the scheme and all the routes in the service area. Batavia had 30 routes, but Elmhurst has 60 so it was more difficult to learn.
“Batavia was a grid, but Elmhurst is all over the place. You’re given a cheat sheet (to learn the scheme and routes), but then they give you a test. It’s a lot of pressure to pass it. You get three tries, 40 hours of training to memorize everything, then they test you three times and you have to get at least 95% correct.”
Sue mastered all the memorization and passed the test so she could move forward in her job.
“We have to get the mail to the carriers and those carriers have to go to every house every day.”
Benefits — a real benefit!
Like other postal workers, Sue enjoys the benefits, such as the fact that sick days and vacation days carry over to the next year if you don’t use them. The real luxury of vacation time is that, after a short time, employees receive five weeks a year.
“And because they carry over, some people take a three-week vacation and then save two weeks for the following year. We’ve had people go to India or Korea and they are able to take a longer time, rather than just two weeks.”
The same policy applies to sick days.
“It’s not a ‘use it or lose it’ situation. When I had hip surgery, I was out for 16 weeks, but I had that many sick days coming because they rolled over.”
At another time, Sue had pneumonia that kept her away from work for more than two months, but she had enough sick time to cover that as well.
“I thought I was pretty active, but then, I got pneumonia?”
Active indeed — Sue has been skiing for 30 years and taught her children to ski when they were 10 years old. She also enjoys horseback riding, roller-skating and snowmobiling.
“My son and I went to Yellowstone. We skied in Montana, then snowmobiled in Yellowstone Park with a stop at Old Faithful geyser.”
Now Sue Pennin is off on her longest vacation ever — retirement. She plans to move to Tucson to be near her daughter and grandchildren. Much as she will enjoy it, she is sure she will miss her friends at the post office, too.
“They really are like a family to me. I will miss everyone.”