After about 30 years of service in Yelm, beloved rural route carrier Melissa Hayes has retired from her post.
She has planned a retirement party for 6 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 7, at Puerto Vallarta.
Hayes is widely known around the postal community for her positive attitude and being a friendly face for customers. Her coworkers also note her hard work and attention to detail.
"She’s been by far one of the best employees I’ve ever worked with … She’s just absolutely kind to everyone, so I’ve truly enjoyed working with her over the last five years,” said Yelm Postmaster Ken Carter.
Her last day was Saturday, Nov. 30.
“I’m not staying any longer. I don’t want to do another Christmas,” Hayes told the Nisqually Valley News.
Hayes started at the small post office back in August 1989 and served as a substitute before becoming a regular carrier.
Back then, Yelm had only four routes. Today, the post office covers 12 routes.
Hayes said she didn’t see herself settling in Yelm, but its rural charm soon caught on.
“I grew up always being around nature and rivers. My husband and I would go hunting together out in Weyerhaeuser every year and take walks out there,” she said.
Back then, routes were often bigger with fewer customers, Hayes said, with two routes circulating through downtown and two around the Bald Hills area.
Hayes said her route used to take her around Nisqually Pines and through Mill Road.
Between the early hours and the often mentally exhausting work, Hayes said postal work isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
“I’m not going to say you have to be a perfectionist, but you have to get it right in your head,” she said.
When Hayes first started at the Yelm Post Office, she was a single mother of two looking to make a decent living with twins on the way.
Over the years, she’s grown into her role as a rural route carrier, learning all the odds and ends of the gig.
She even met her husband, longtime Yelmite Autumn “Joe” Hayes, at the post office. They had been married for about 10 years when he died last January.
“He would come and talk to us carriers outside almost every day. His stepdaughter even works there,” she said. “He would come and talk to her, mostly.”
Shortly after they had their first date and the rest was history, Hayes said.
A lot of things about postal servicing have changed over the years, Hayes said. But the one thing that trumps them all was the introduction of Amazon and its innovative overnight shipping model. She first noticed it about five years ago.
“Every single Christmas there’s just been more,” she said.
Throughout her three decades of service, Hayes said she’s enjoyed most of it.
It’s really the people that make up for the hard work, she said.
“My boss, Ken Carter, he said that just a few weeks ago that we’re a family. It’s always been that way,” Hayes said. “You can just talk about anything to each other.”
Hayes said she’s going to miss her customers and coworkers.
“I’m not going to say everyone. But most of the people are sad I’m going. My customers are sad … It is what it is. I don’t believe I’ve left with bad feelings for anyone,” she said.