Postal worker retires after more than 45 years on the job

By Brady Extin | The Times-Post

PENDLETON — A mix of laughter and joy, as well as sadness and tears, filled the Pendleton Post Office last week.
Memories were shared, and the past four decades were reminisced on last Tuesday as the Post Office celebrated clerk Darlene Heath’s retirement after 45 years and four months.
Heath, whose last official day of work was Friday, was emotional describing her time at the job.
“This is hard,” she said with tears in her eyes. “Getting to know the people was really wonderful. I came from Anderson, so I didn’t know anything about Pendleton.”
A graduate of Madison Heights High School, Heath, who is 74, worked at Target and the Pendleton License Branch before beginning her time at the Post Office in 1979.
At first, it took some convincing for her to apply for the job, but once she did, the rest was history.

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“We were farmers, and I needed to get a job,” Heath said. “My husband saw in the paper that they were asking for and taking applications at the post office and told me it would be a good job for me.
”I told him no because you had to take tests and I had been out of school too long at that point,” she said. However, “I went to Arsenal Tech for the testing which was on speed and accuracy, and I did great, so I got called for an interview and they hired me.”
During her tenure, Heath worked in a variety of roles at the post office. She carried mail for four and a half years, was a flex worker, working both inside and outside for a period of time, and ended her career as a clerk working the window. At one point, she worked at the Ingalls Post Office for a 10-month stretch.
“At first, I was told that I’d only be working 10 hours a week. I don’t know If I ever worked only 10 hours a week,” she said laughingly. “I used to come in at 5:15 to unload trucks and sort mail, and then I would be at the window the rest of the day.”
Through the years, Heath saw an array of changes both in the town and at the post office. The thing that out to her the most was the price of things.
“There’s been a lot of changes,” Heath said. “When I started here stamps were 15 cents, and now they’re 68 cents.”
The one thing that never changed for her, though, was the heart and soul of the job — the people whom she met on a day-to-day basis and the regular customers she grew to know very well.
Some of those people and memories have stuck with her all these years.
“One day early on when I was carrying mail, Ross Jackson, who was a principal at one of the schools in town, came out on his porch and said, ‘You’re not from these parts, are you’. I just laughed and told him ‘no, I’m not’,” Heath said. “It’s things like that, and the people that I’m going to miss the most. Just getting to help them and getting to know everybody.”
After more than four decades of getting to know the people in town while on the job, and living in the town herself for 50 years, people no longer question ‘if she’s from these parts’.
For many people, Heath became a familiar face at the post office and somebody who was always willing to help.
Many of the comments left by customers recently called her nice, pleasant, friendly, helpful, and one of the most pleasant ladies to talk to. The final comment left was short and sweet. “The best” it read.
“She’s from the old school where you give your employer a good day’s work for a good day’s wage,” Heath’s coworker of 36 years, Robert Widener, said. “She only asked me for a favor one time over those 36 years.”
Now, after years of dedication and hard work, Heath is looking forward to retirement and getting to do the things that she always appreciated but never had the time for while working.
She wants to read more, garden, become even more active in her church than she already is, and most importantly, spend more time with her friends.
After more than four and a half decades on the job, and countless happy customers, few would dispute she deserves just that.
“I just always wanted to be good with my customers, wanted to be honest with them, and wanted to help them whenever I could,” she said.