After 28 years, postal worker remembers people, stories

By Sarah E. Reynolds | Jul 05, 2014
Photo by: Sarah E. Reynolds Kathleen Laffin retired June 30 from the Camden Post Office after 21 years there, and 28 with the postal service.

Camden — During her 28 years with the United States Postal Service, Kathleen Laffin worked in several different jobs, but what she remembers is the stories.

“I love the customers,” she said Monday, June 30, the day she retired.

She started as a rural carrier substitute in Newtown, Conn., and later worked in Brookfield, Conn.

In 1992, she went to Portland to work in automation, and the following year was hired by then-postmaster Mike Arbor to be a window clerk at the Camden post office. (Arbor is now postmaster in Union.)

Laffin got to know many of the regulars and became friends with them. Someone would come in to rent a post office box, show their driver's license, and it would turn out Laffin shared the person's birthday. The next thing she knew, she would be going out to lunch with them. One of these “birthday buddies” brought her a rose on her last day.

Customers would tell her about their trips, and even send her post cards or bring her trinkets from their travels. This one would have a care package for a child in college, that one something for a loved one in the military, someone else a gift for a new grandbaby. They would share their joys and sorrows, and she would offer a hug.

Laffin said she liked working at the window better than being a carrier because she had more time to talk to people, more time to hear their stories.

Camden, being in the heart of Vacationland, gets a large number of visitors, some of whom are from abroad, asking for directions and information, she said. Once, during the filming of a Stephen King movie, the post office was being used as a set. Seeing a sign outside that said, “Town Hall,” a couple came in and asked Laffin for a marriage license.

She said despite the many changes in almost three decades, she would still recommend the postal service as an employer. “You have to work hard, but it's a good place to work,” she said.

One thing customers do not always understand is the correct way to address letters and packages, Laffin said. With longtime employees like her, who know the community, the postal service can often deliver mail, even with a minimal address, she said.

As for the future of the service, she said Camden has been increasing revenue. Besides that, the post office is “the hub of the community,” the place everyone meets, she said.

Laffin, who lives in Warren, plans to visit at the post office, to see her former coworkers as well as customers who have become friends. She is grateful to the people she worked with, who supported her through breast cancer and the loss of her husband. When they held a retirement party for her at The Helm June 27, her old boss, Arbor was there. She had special gratitude for him. “Mike has been wonderful to me,” she said.

She is ready for life off the clock, she said, with plans to ride her motorcycle, go kayaking and spend time with her grandson, 11, and granddaughter, 5, who live in Thomaston.

“I can't wait to go home and turn off my alarm clock,” Laffin said.

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Sarah Reynolds
Sarah E. Reynolds is a reporter for the Camden Herald.
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Sarah E. Reynolds has been a reporter and writer for more than 20 years, winning awards from the Maine Press Association and other professional organizations. She loves to read, hike and play word games.

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