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'Keeping a part of rural America'



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June 16, 2010 - Chances are if you live in the Village of Atlas you know Joan Smith.

For the past 13 years, Smith has served as the Atlas Postmaster—and in a rural community where mail is still picked up in one of about 236 post office boxes— she's somewhat of a celebrity.

On June 30 she will retire.

"I'm behind the wall that talks," laughs Smith. "Customers come in to pick up their mail while I'm behind the wall of post office boxes and I say, 'Good morning.' In the time of computers and the Internet—we lose that eye contact with each other. While post offices have adjusted to the Internet, we still have kept a little bit of rural America—it's fine with me."

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"I came from a very rural community," she said. "My dad worked at a grain elevator in Cosmos in central Minnesota. I shoveled grain before, too. It's all part of growing up in a farming community."

Smith started her career at the Cosmos Minnesota Post Office, population of about 500, in the early 1980s.

"I've been out delivering mail in 30 degrees below zero during a Minnesota winter," laughs Smith. "The move here to Michigan was a good transition for us—I'm right at home in rural Atlas."

"It's been a matter of manual to machine to sort mail, still I know all the customers by name. I know their kids too and their kids too," she said. "I keep suckers right here on the counter when kids come in with Mom or Dad. The downside is rural post offices are on the decline."

Joan mentioned while 1.1 million customers go on-line to the usps.com and another seven million visit a post office—USPS employees will drive 4.1 million miles to deliver 584 million pieces of mail to more than 150 million residences, businesses and PO boxes.

"Thank you to all the great people of the Atlas area for their support during my watch as postmaster."

From 1-3 p.m., June 29, Smith will host a retirement and customer appreciation day at the Atlas Post Office. Door prizes and refreshments will be served.

Smith attended Cosmos High School and later St. Cloud State University, in Minnesota. She has been married to Tom for 42 years. They have three children:- Greta, Glenda and Grant. They also have six grandchildren.

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