ALMA — The unofficial motto of the United States Postal Service states that its couriers will not let snow, rain, heat or gloom of night keep them from completing their appointed rounds.
In the case of Laura McWater, better add snakes in toilets to the list of calamities.
McWaters retired Wednesday after almost 38 years of service as a mail carrier working out of the Alma Post Office.
She hadn’t been on the job for very long when, while out on her route, she heard some of her customers trying to get her attention.
“I was out delivering and the people were yelling, ‘Hey, mail lady, come here and look what we got in our toilet. It’s a snake!’” she recalled. “I said, ‘That’s OK, I don’t need to see the snake in your toilet.’”
She did finish the day’s deliveries without skipping a beat, showing the dedication and consistency that would become the hallmark of her work character throughout the rest of her career.
“She’s done a great job servicing her route for many years and has been very dedicated to her customers,” said Alma Postmaster Jason Fitzgerald. “She’s rarely missed work, is just as solid as a rock and as dependable as they come. She doesn’t ask for anything and gives a lot back. She’s just that kind of person.”
McWater followed in the steps of her father, Clifton Gunn, who carried the mail at Alma for 30 years.
“Back then they got to choose their sub and he chose me,” McWater said during a retirement reception held in her honor Wednesday. “I was 18 and had just graduated high school. A few times I was like, ‘Daddy, I can’t do this.’ And he said, ‘Yes you can. You can do it.’ So I stuck it out and here I am.”
Fitzgerald, who has been the postmaster at Alma since December of 2017, said McWater “comes in and gets her job done and is very timely in her deliveries. Her customers know when she’s going to be there every day and that’s a big deal.”
He said his office has received a lot of customer feedback about the retiring mail carrier with all of it being good.
“Mostly it’s about her timeliness and efficiency and how she goes the extra mile to get their mail delivered,” he said. “She’s very dependable and very consistent.”
Besides following her dad’s lead, McWater was also able to share work experiences alongside her husband, Harry, who retired two years ago after a 29-year career at the Alma Post Office.
“People don’t realize it but it’s a lot of pressure,” Harry said. “When you come in to get the mail it’s got to get done. The ‘rain, sleet, snow’ is just part of it. And you’ve got a vehicle you’ve got to take care of. When you get here you’ve got a responsibility to get all the mail out to your customers because they’re looking for it. So it’s a lot of pressure that people don’t realize.”
Harry joked that he may be able to get some extra sleep now that his wife has retired.
“Mail carriers have to get up early and get down here to start delivering the mail,” he said. “When I retired I didn’t have to do that, but she did so I was right there with her. Every morning when she got up I was the first one out of bed. I can sleep in now.”
Looking back on her years of service, Laura said, “I loved it. And I’m not bragging but I felt like I was pretty good at it, too.”
Even though she changed routes throughout her career, she did say there were some customers who stayed on her delivery route the entire 38 years on the job.
“I had great customers and I’ll miss them,” she said. “But I’m happy and ready for retirement.”