Besieged by packages and stacks of letters, Myrna Ransier methodically goes about her early morning, sifting, sorting and bringing order to a wave of incoming mail.
Comfortable amid the clutter, Ransier recognizes addresses, prioritizes boxes and envelopes, and fills and maneuvers a bin of mail to be loaded into her truck that waits outside Auburn’s main post office.
Swiftly prepared, Ransier soon will be on the go, covering her designated “City 21” route.
For 82-year-old Ransier, the job is routine, straightforward and challenging. It’s something that the Auburn woman has done for 50 years.
Fit, sharp and ready with a quip, Ransier more than holds her own. Work she describes as “being different every day” is her sanctuary, and she intends to stay on the job for as long as she can.
“To tell you the truth, I never really think about it (retirement),” said Ransier, her long fingers wrapped around a well-deserved Diet Coke as she sat at a nearby pub after completing her eight-hour shift. “I always tell people (after) mailmen retire … they drop dead, so I figured to keep working and live forever.
“My driver’s license is up when I turn 85, and that’s probably when I will make up my mind (to retire).”
Besides, Ransier considers herself old enough to be a workplace antique.
She offers no secrets to her longevity and encourages others to work beyond their years.
“Each person is different,” she said. “If you enjoy it, it shouldn’t be mandatory that you give up.”
If anything, Ransier is pragmatic, independent and dependable.
Each workday morning, she leaves home – the same downtown house she has owned since 1973 – and walks 11 blocks to the post office. She clocks in by 7 a.m., and eight, sometimes 10 hours later, clocks out and walks home.
She is efficient, pulls her own weight and seldom, if at all, asks for help.
Co-workers, many of them not even half her age, marvel at her strength and stamina. They consider the wise woman a role model with her spirited approach to work and life.
“She’s an amazing woman. She’s like a second mom to all of us. Everyone calls her mom,” said fellow carrier Dacia Bautista. “She comes to work every day. She works hard every day. She doesn’t want help from anyone.”
Born and raised in northern Idaho, Ransier was a strong-willed bundle of energy from the get-go. Her mother told her she always marched to the beat of her own drum.
Ransier went to the University of Idaho and became a primary-grades schoolteacher, working first in the Tri-Cities and later in Kent. But she soon grew uncomfortable in the classroom and dissatisfied drawing up lesson plans.
A stay-at-home mother of three children, Ransier was considering her next step when something caught her eye in the neighborhood. A postal worker had zipped down her street, the truck’s windows wide open, radio blaring, bringing the mail.
“Hey, I can do that,” Ransier told herself.
She applied. She persisted. She got the job. Her first day in uniform was April 18, 1969. It paid $3.95 an hour.
“It’s the first job I ever got where I got paid the same as the guys for the same work,” Ransier said. “If a guy can do it, I can do it. That’s the way I looked at it.”
Ransier covered a variety of routes, whatever came her way, delivering mail throughout Auburn, Federal Way, East Hill, West Hill and spots in between.
Her perseverance was rewarded. Once the U.S. Postal Service was created and became a corporation-like independent agency in 1971, better pay came with it for carriers. Ransier soon was making $8.95 an hour – considered a good wage in those days and enough to support her three children, Karen, Pam and Charles.
“When my mom went to work for the post office, they almost didn’t want to hire her because she was the mother of three young children,” said Karen Eacrett, Ransier’s oldest daughter. “In 1969, most female postal workers were clerks, not carriers.
“We all worked together to help mom prove that she could be a mom and a dedicated postal worker,” Eacrett said. “In the early years, she got called in a lot on her days off, and she worked as a substitute carrier for quite a while before she got her first regular route.”
Ransier proved her worth, and resiliency.
“My mom is probably the hardest working person I’ve ever known,” said Pam Bykonen, the younger daughter. “She took the job as city letter carrier back when businesses could refuse you employment just because you were a woman with children. With this job, my mom was able to support a family, keep us fed, clothed and under a roof during a time of Boeing layoffs and other economic challenges.”
Thankful customers have kept Ransier going, even if their pets have sometimes objected to her street-side stops.
On her route, Ransier once was bitten by a dog, another time by a monkey while delivering a package at a downtown pet store.
She has had her usual trips and tumbles on the job and some fender benders behind the wheel, but nothing serious. She had her visits to the emergency room, including an episode around Christmas one year when she drove and spun on a patch of ice, hitting a tree, the impact pitching her face first into the steering wheel. Her nose, cut but unbroken, was stitched up.
During her years as a carrier, Ransier has seen change. Mail, once sorted by hand, is now done by machine. The internet, she said, has reduced the volume of first-class mail and the number of magazines delivered, but it hasn’t entirely eliminated the standard, stamped letter. Amazon and other shipment outfits have brought options to customers and competition to the post office.
“But the junk mail will always be there,” Ransier said with a grin.
Active in mind and body
Ransier stays young. She does her own yard work, enjoys crossword puzzles and murder mysteries and keeps in touch with her kids. She has five grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
Her good health can be attributed to eating well and daily exercise. She doesn’t smoke or drink. She loves chocolate.
Age has left her with two hearing aids and one vocal cord. She carries a raspy voice but manages just fine with a smile and a “wicked” sense of humor.
“I remember once when a co-worker kept sneaking treats from her work area,” Bykonen said. “She paid him back by baking brownies with Ex-Lax in them and left them out for him to take, taking care to warn her friends not to eat them.
“She takes care of her friends and family like no one I’ve ever known, and I try to emulate her strength of character every day.”
Eacrett admires her mom and what she represents. Over the years, she has earned postal awards for excellence, and the affection of co-workers for her generosity.
“My mom’s work at the Auburn Post Office reflects her work ethic,” Eacrett said. “She shows up on time, does her work, and a lot of times will help others with their routes, and she is a stickler for following the rules. She knows her routes inside and out.”
She knows herself.