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Postal worker ends career on right foot

August 11, 2004|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

WILLIAMSPORT - One of Mike Suder's lasting memories of veteran postal worker Diane Stone is how she took pity on him his first day on the job in 1980 and finished his route in the pouring rain because he sprained his ankle playing basketball the day before.

So on July 31, Stone's last day after 30 years on the job, Suder returned the favor and delivered the mail to her customers.

"Mike hobbled through that first day, so I knew he was going to be good," said Stone, 57, noting that she trained Suder as a mail carrier.

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Suder, who has been Williamsport's postmaster for more than one year, said he admired Stone for being the kind of employee he wanted to be from the beginning.

"Diane was my first impression in the U.S. Postal Service. Her work ethic is what drove me," he said.

In the early 1970s, Stone was contemplating a career change when she took the test for postal workers. She went to work as a clerk at the Williamsport Post Office in 1974.

"In those days, when you were a clerk, you also carried the mail," Stone said. "Carrying the mail was the part I liked best - you're outside, you know your route and you do your job."

Born in Hagerstown, Stone was living in Williamsport when she was hired. The postmaster then was Sherman Mellott, who retired in 1981.

"He was firm but fair," Stone said.

In the early days, Stone's route involved eight miles of walking. Later, the route got shorter and there was some riding involved. Stone said she liked the exercise, which she said helped keep her fit and healthy.

The people she met made the job special over the years, Stone said.

"The folks at Tony's had a little party for me," Stone said, noting she usually had lunch and read the newspaper there on workdays.

Gladys Obitts Whipp at Sheetz in Williamsport always had a fresh pot of hazelnut coffee brewing when Stone showed up with the mail each day.

Stone and her husband, Roy, who retired after 30 years at the Hagerstown Post Office, are going to move to South Pointe.

Stone said retirement will have its advantages.

"I'm looking forward to watching a whole movie in the evening instead of having to go to bed early to get up for work the next day," she said.

The Stones plan to spend time in Florida, where their union, the National Association of Letter Carriers, maintains a retirement center.

On her last day, Stone was treated to a farewell get-together in the Williamsport Town Hall parking lot across from the post office so her customers and friends could say farewell.

Because of the heat, the farewell party moved indoors.

"I started out great in this job and I'm ending up great," Stone said. "I'm going out feeling good."

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