Longtime West Dundee postal employees retiring
There's probably not a West Dundee post office customer that Sue Teas or Gary Steinmann does not know.
Together they have been working as either postal carrier or clerk for a total of 69 years.
They have taken and weighed boxes, oversized envelopes and letters, for Steinmann since the 1970s and for Teas since the 1980s. Decades of Christmas delivery rushes and income tax seasons have come and gone with them being behind the counter or a carrier bag.
Those days are coming to an end, though, for the pair. Teas and Steinmann will retire at the end of this month. With them, they will take memories of smiles and stories from customers and friendly and excitable dogs.
"I started in 1975 as a carrier when the post office was still in downtown West Dundee," Steinmann said. "Stamps were 13 cents before computers, emails and direct (bank) deposits. There was a lot more mail to be delivered back then."
He knew every dog on his route, every street and most of the names of the residents.
"Oh yes, I knew the dogs that were friendly. I would bring treats for them with me," he said. "I also knew the dogs to watch out for. I'm an animal lover. They needed to get used to me."
Teas started in 1984, after postal employees moved into their new Route 31 building. Then, stamps were more expensive, but the Internet still had not made its dent into the volume of mail that was being delivered six days a week.
She was not a carrier, but she knew the struggles of those who walked the tree-lined streets of the 60118 ZIP code for East and West Dundee and Sleepy Hollow.
"People don't realize how hard carrying that bag is on the body," she said. "When it's full, it can weigh 50 pounds. Walking up and down on those streets is hard on the carriers' backs and legs. I've always worked the desk, and I've always enjoyed my job because I work with the customers."
After 10 years, Steinmann came in from the streets and began working at the desk, too. After taking countless letters and packages, he has become an expert on ZIP codes and what part of the country or world they are going to.
"When I started, the mail was hand sorted; now, it's all done with automation," said Steinmann, who grew up in West Dundee but now resides in Elgin. "After working here a while, we all get to know the regular customers."
"Being a postal clerk is like being a bartender in a lot of ways," said Teas, an Elgin resident. "They tell us funny stuff and personal stuff. They tell us about weddings and birthdays. Some of the stuff is sad. Some of the stories are sad.
"Through the years, I have made a lot close friends with the customers. There's a lot of really nice people here in Dundee."
Those people, she says, she will miss the most. The long, unpredictable hours she won't miss.
When employees start working for the post office, their days start at 5 a.m. and end at 6 p.m. Part-timers have a three-to-four-hour break during the day, but their schedules are not consistent. One day, they deliver mail after they sort it; the next day they sort it and work the customer desk.
Put all that together, and a career is made in the U.S. Postal Service.
"Delivering and sorting the mail isn't just a job," Steinmann said. "People depend on us. They learn to know when to listen for their mailboxes to open and close. They wait for those letters to tell them if they received the job promotion, a check or something they have been waiting for."
The retirement of Steinmann and Teas will be a loss not only for regular postal customers, but for the West Dundee post office, said Postmaster Jacqueline Kousoulas.
With them leaving and having two other employees on extended leave, the post office will have to continue with a smaller staff.
"Both Gary and Sue will be missed. They have been such an important part of the office. They have added a quality of service that will be hard to replace," Kousoulas said.
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