“Retiring” is not a word that fits Harrietta Weddle very well, in any sense of the word.
Postmaster at the Helmsburg post office for more than a decade, Weddle has become an icon of the community that even newcomers quickly come to recognize.
“She knows us, and what we’re doin’, and how we’re doin’, and how our family is,” said Helen Moore, who has lived in Helmsburg for around 40 years.
“And I worry about ’em,” Harrietta added. “If they don’t come in and check their mail, then I’m on the phone.”
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Weddle doesn’t shy away from giving people an earful if they leave for a time without letting her know. She wants to know that they are OK.
Chatting with Weddle about the post office and the community, it’s likely you’ll be interrupted when she spots someone outside and stops to gather their mail.
One woman stops by while out walking her dogs. Weddle gathers the bundle and takes it out to her so she doesn’t have to leave her dogs outside.
“Now, where else do you get service like that?” Weddle said with a cock of her eyebrow.
Ready to work
Weddle first started working part-time for the post office in 1986. It was on the corner of Helmsburg Road and State Road 45.
The day she walked in and got hired, “The woman behind the counter said, ‘You don’t know anyone that wants a job, do you?’ And I said, ‘Doing what?’ And she said, ‘Working here,’ and I said, ‘Here I is.’”
There were no background checks, no fingerprints, no complex system to navigate as there would be in 2003 when she was hired full time as the Helmsburg postmaster. Weddle simply took the job and started working.
“I was so glad when she got to be postmaster,” Moore said.
Talking about Weddle’s tendency to check on customers who haven’t been in for their mail, longtime friend Virginia White said it just comes down to her basic nature.
“She’s just kindhearted, and she cares about people,” White said.
Weddle is many things to the people who pass through her post office.
“I have a lot of people come in and tell me things that they don’t want people to know, but they need someone to talk to,” she said.
“But what people tell me, I don’t repeat. If they want them to know, let them tell them.”
She offers sympathy when it’s the right response but is just as likely to offer humor.
“I like it, because it makes everything feel upbeat,” White said. “She’s always happy, and it makes everybody else happy around her.”
Asked to describe Weddle’s sense of humor, Susan Pool — whose husband owns the Helmsburg sawmill — simply responded, “Oh, wow,” and laughed.
“Hilarious,” was White’s response.
“She’s something else,” Pool said. “She’s good. She’s a good person to have over there.”
“She’ll just say what she thinks,” Pool added. “No mincing words. You know where you stand.”
White has known Weddle for more than 30 years.
The two did Boy Scouts and Little League together and raised their children as neighbors. Currently, they both serve on the board of the Helmsburg Regional Sewer District, with its 64 customers.
As members of the board, White and Weddle are unpaid volunteers. White said that there have been times, when things were tight, that Weddle actually paid some bills out of her pocket.
Weddle also helps to organize events and donates to the Christmas Bazaar at the church.
When their boys were in Scouts together, White and Weddle would put together car washes and go around asking local businesses to donate money or supplies, such as food for camping trips.
“Just, whatever we needed to do at the time,” White said.
Just another phase
“I’m not the kind to sit around and twiddle my thumbs,” Weddle said.
But she isn’t sure what she will do with her free time.
She has two grandsons, 9 and 12. She already spends her evenings going to their games or activities — much as she was involved in her sons’ lives.
She might spend more time at the YMCA; her work hours kept her from being able to participate in offerings during the workday.
And, she expects to keep doing little things such as providing the popcorn for “movie night” at the elementary school.
“She’s always been pretty busy, so I think it’s going to be difficult for her to relax,” White said.
“People like me ain’t here anymore,” Weddle said. “When I went to work, I didn’t need a job; I just went to work.”
Though she won’t miss coming in on cold mornings, it was the only thing she said she wouldn’t miss.
The work and pace has suited her, she said, and she takes obvious pride in it and in her interactions with other members of the community.
“I’ve had a very good time here most of the time; it’s been very interesting,” she said.
For now, Weddle will work reduced hours, but once the postal service has figured out her replacement, her familiar smile and wit will be gone from behind the counter.
For a lot of the community, a daily or weekly chat with Weddle is among the furniture of their lives.
“I think she’ll be missed a lot,” White said. “She seems to know everybody that comes in.”
Even Paul Watters, who has worked at The Beamery Group for less than a year, when asked about things going on around Helmsburg, replies, “Have you talked to Harrietta?”
With the U.S. Postal Service cutting back services in smaller communities, Helmsburg’s postmaster for the past decade will soon be retiring.
But for now, Harrietta Weddle will just be putting in fewer hours behind the counter at the little post office just off State Road 45.
Beginning Saturday, Feb. 7, the Helmsburg Post Office will only be open from 8 a.m. to noon Mondays through Fridays, and from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. on Saturdays.