Twenty-five years ago Skip Harmon left the U.S. Air Force after 21 years of service.
Twenty-one years of military service was quite a career. But Harmon had a feeling deep down inside that it was time to move on to new endeavors.
He had no idea what he might do as he transitioned into a new phase of his life.
So he took a job as a bookeeper at the now-defunct Wredberg Mill near the train depot in Princeton.
He also took on some work for the U.S. Postal Service in a position he called “part-time casual,” in which he sorted mail.
Skip eventually became a part-time city carrier and also served as a rural carrier.
He then found his new career job when he was moved to the front window and took on the position as postal clerk.
It’s there that Skip Harmon shared his smile with patrons of the Princeton Post Office for more than two decades.
It’s that smile, his patience with a customer, and williness to help in whatever way possible that his customers say they are going to miss the most.
But like everything, all good things must come to an end. And for Skip Harmon, that means his career as a postal clerk. At 73-years-old, he says it’s time to cancel his last letter.
Postmaster Arlene Duenow calls Skip an icon in her office. “Everyone knows Skip and he’s going to be genuinely missed,” Duenow said.
“He has such a knack for customer service. He has a friendly face, is helpful to customers, and helps us a lot around the post office, too. People call the post office and ask for Skip because he’s been the face of the post office for so long.
We’re going to miss him,” she said.
Skip has seen a lot of changes since he started his job in 1987 at the old Post Office building at 520 1st Street where Cook’s Floor Covering is now located.
Back when Skip started his job there were no computers and every aspect of his job was done manually, he said.
That’s not the case anymore. Today there are computerized scales for weighing mail, services that sell postage online and a phenomonon called eBay that brings scores of people into the post office with packages to mail. Before the popularity of email and the Internet a lot more people communicated through mail. One also had to lick a stamp to affix it to a letter. Now postage stamps are all self-adhesive.
But one thing that stayed constant over the years was Skip Harmon and the relationship he built with his customers and co-workers.
“I’ve come to know a lot of people,” Skip said last Friday morning before starting his last day of work. “A lot of people come through that door.”
“Some of those people I’ll see around town, but many I may never see again.”
That, Skip says, makes him sad.
Over the past 25 years there have been good days and bad days, he says. There have been ups, and there have been downs. But there have been many, many, more ups than downs, he said.
“I’ve met a lot of good people being on this side of the counter. And I’ve met a heck of a lot of good people as co-workers,” he said.
Skip has no plans for retirement, other to enjoy his time with his wife Clarice. He says he’ll just take things as they come. He’s going to roll with the punches.
But he knows one thing. If those stories he’s heard from retirees who have visited with him over the years at the postal counter are true, he will be busier in retirement that he was while he was on the job.
Jeff Hage is the editor of the Princeton Union-Eagle. Reach him by email at jeff.hage@ecm-inc.