Judy Eckart has been the Route 2 mail carrier out of Backus for 29 years, but her days of driving from the center of the car are over. Judy retired Feb. 22 and is now seeking new life experiences.
It all began with Awana at Mildred chapel, where she met a rural mail carrier and got a job offer. The Backus Post Office was looking for a new substitute mail carrier.
“She used to watch me wrestle the teenage kids for the basketball. She figured if I was tough enough for that I could handle the mail route,” Judy said. “When she asked me, I said, ‘I can’t do that. I don’t know the first thing about delivering mail.’”
Judy had never considered being a mail carrier, so she spoke to her husband. Henry suggested that if she wasn’t interested, she should turn down the offer. When she told him it paid $7 an hour, a lot of money in 1984, his tune changed.
“He said, ‘Take it!’” Judy said.
Judy worked as a substitute mail carrier in the beginning. She started her day at 7 a.m. with at least 2 1/2 hours of sorting mail for her 410 customer homes, and then moved on to a 93-mile, five-hour route. She then returned to the post office by 5 p.m. to process the mail she had collected.
During her many miles, Judy experienced many vehicular issues, including a car fire the day after she bought a new vehicle. Luckily, she rescued all the mail and packages from the burning vehicle without any harm to herself.
After 15 years, Judy was promoted to a full-time position when the Route 2 driver retired.
Over the years and miles, Judy learned many things, like how to fit 74 Christmas packages into a small car and how to change a tire (Judy holds a record at B&L Auto across the street from the post office for flats). Most of all, Judy built up relationships with the people on her route.
“I love my customers. Being a mail carrier you get to know them because you are part of their life. When they get sick, you know that when you go to their house with cards,” she said. “They kind of tell you what’s going on in their life, so there’s all kinds of things that go through your mail that your customers share with you. You really get to know your customers well, and they trust you.”
Through her 29 years as mail carrier, the customers haven’t changed, but many policies and practices have. While not all of these changes are good, she wants everyone to realize that it is not your local mail carrier’s fault.
“The people that are out there actually doing the physical job and not making the rules are really hard working and dedicated. We do a good job. We try to do what’s best for our customers,” she said. “Our customers don’t have anyone to complain to but us, and we understand that. We are the face of the post office.”
Judy’s retirement came, largely, in response to the death of her husband, who passed away in May 2012. Following his death, Judy said she thought it would be better to retire on her own terms, rather than to be forced out by illness. It’s time to move on. It didn’t help that finding a new car with front bench seats was getting difficult.
Though she will certainly miss her customers, Judy will not miss 70 miles of springtime muddy roads. And she is somewhat happy to miss out on the added Monday morning workload when Saturday delivery is eliminated.
Now that her shift has ended, Judy has purchased a car with bucket seats, and she is looking into volunteer opportunities through her church. She may even go on a mission trip soon.