Jack Armstrong has retired after 26 years as postmaster in Mineville and Witherbee. He’s being replaced by Leah King of Willsboro.
When Jack Armstrong woke up Aug. 1, he had one thought.
“I’m going to do what I want to do,” he said, “not what I have to do.”
Aug. 1 marked the first day of retirement for Armstrong after more than 35 years with the U.S. Postal Service, the last 26 as postmaster in Mineville and Witherbee.
“I’ll miss the customers and my co-workers,” Armstrong said of retirement. “They’ve made the last 35 years seem like three; they’ve been great.
“But I’m looking forward to taking it easy,” he added. “I’m going to take some time and figure out exactly what I want to do. I know I want to get back into golfing. I used to play four or five times a week, but since I became postmaster I really haven’t been able to play. I’ve decided I’m buying new irons.”
Being postmaster has been a consuming job.
“Since becoming postmaster I’ve probably worked 16 years of Saturdays,” Armstrong said. “I don’t think I’ve ever had a long weekend.”
But he’s not complaining.
“The postal service has provided well for my family and I feel fortunate to have had this job,” Armstrong said. “It (the Mineville-Witherbee post office) is less than a mile from my house. Not many people (in the postal service) have been able to stay in their hometown.
“To be in the same community where my mother and father taught a combined 78 years is special,” he said.
Armstrong almost became a teacher, like his parents. He earned a degree in elementary education from SUNY-Plattsburgh in 1975. Unable to find a full-time teaching job, he was a substitute teacher and did odd jobs before joining the postal service April 9, 1977.
He became the Mineville postmaster in March 1986. When the Mineville post office closed because of structural issues, he moved to the Witherbee post office. In 1996 a new post office was constructed to serve both Mineville and Witherbee.
The consolidation of post offices was controversial at the time. Both communities feared they would lose their identity without a post office. In a compromise move, the postal service built the new facility between the two communities and allowed each to keep their zip code.
“A lot of people were upset that there wasn’t going to be a post office in Mineville and one in Witherbee,” Armstrong recalled. “But I remember that first day we opened (the new facility). There were some older men who had worked together in the mines, but hadn’t seen each other in years. They met at the post office and stood outside talking for a long time. I remember thinking, ‘This is going to work out just fine.’”
Armstrong’s retirement is part of a retirement-incentive program offered by the postal service. The Albany postal district had 92 postmasters retired July 31. Combined they had 2,700 years of experience.
“That’s a lot of knowledge walking out the door in our district,” Armstrong said. “But it was the right time for me. I hit 60 years old last month (June). It’s time to do something else.”
Replacing Armstrong is Leah King of Willsboro as officer-in-charge. She’s been working with Armstrong the past two months to learn the ropes at the Mineville-Witherbee Post Office.
“I’m a little nervous,” she admitted. “Jack’s been great and everyone is really nice.”
To mark his final day of work July 31, Armstrong bought lunch for his present and former co-workers.
“I decided to splurge a little bit to say thank you,” Armstrong said. “It’s been a great team. All the offices work together and help out. I’ve always prided myself on office team work. I’ve never asked anyone to so something I won’t do myself. It’s time to say thank you.”