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Saying goodbye to ‘Pete the Postman’

Longtime North Brattleboro clerk retires, and his customers throw him a party

BRATTLEBORO—Plenty of postal clerks retire without garnering a celebration.

But Peter Sederstrom is no ordinary clerk.

After 33 years and three months with the U.S. Postal Service, and 12 years as the lead clerk at the North Brattleboro post office on Putney Road, Sederstrom worked his last day behind the counter on Jan. 25.

And his many loyal customers threw him a party to say goodbye to “Pete the Postman."

The party in the post office lobby was organized by Gail Sorenson of Dummerston, one of Sederstrom’s loyal patrons.

“I just wanted to show my appreciation,” Sorenson said. “Pete is one of those people who makes a difference in the lives of others by always being so positive and concerned about each person he deals with.”

“They don’t make postmasters like him anymore,” said Shirley Crosier of Brattleboro. “He was always professional, always friendly, and always helpful.”

“He’s been a great neighbor,” said Mike Henry, owner of the former Steakout Restaurant for more than three decades. “This is like the post office used to be; seeing the same guy behind the counter day in and day out.”

According to Thomas Rizzo, a spokesman for the U.S. Postal Service’s Northern New England District, Sederstrom is one of approximately 23,000 clerks and other postal employees nationwide taking advantage of an early retirement incentive program.

A Dec. 7, 2012, report in the Federal Times notes that the Postal Service, “which once rarely offered buyouts, has resorted to them repeatedly in recent years to cut labor costs.”

The same report notes that The Postal Service lost almost $16 billion in fiscal 2012, and is seeking to regain long-term financial stability by cutting its workforce from 528,000, its 2012 level, to a target 402,000 by 2016.

He put in his time

Sederstrom, who lives in Winchester, N.H., said he served in the Navy for four years during the Vietnam era, so that time also counts toward his retirement.

“[The early retirement package] is a good deal, and it is the right time to take it,” he said.

Before taking the North Brattleboro job, Sederstrom worked in the downtown Brattleboro post office. When he began his career in the mails, Brattleboro was a regional mail hub, sorting and handling mail for 80 Vermont post offices.

“They used to run three shifts, 24/7, on Main Street,” he said. “There used to be 100 employees in Brattleboro sorting mail for the whole county.”

But in 1988, the USPS consolidated bulk mail handing at its facility in White River Junction, and Sederstrom said the move meant that more than a few employees — including himself — had to make to drive north until positions opened up again in Brattleboro.

Sederstrom was assigned to North Brattleboro in 2001, succeeding Donald Forbes, the location’s first clerk, who retired that year after 11 years on the job.

“Those were big shoes to fill,” Sederstrom said of Forbes, who died in 2005. “He was loved by his customers, and I had never worked behind the counter before.”

But Sederstrom soon built upon Forbes’ legacy of friendly service and good humor.

“That’s how I always remember the post office being like when I was growing up,” Sederstrom said. “This is a great post office to work in. It may sound corny, but our customers are like friends and neighbors.”

And his customers returned the favor on Jan. 25, as a steady stream of them delivered hugs, handshakes, and baked goods to send him off into retirement.

Although Sederstrom is leaving, the North Brattleboro post office will be sticking around. His successor will be named in a couple of weeks, and Sederstrom said the lease on the office in the Vermont Building has been extended for five years.

He said he has no immediate plans for his retirement. His girlfriend, Jackie Delano, just retired from the USPS after 31 years as a rural route carrier in Winchester, N.H. Sederstrom did say he’ll take it easy for now, and savor the memories of all the friendships he’s made.

“I won’t miss dealing with the bureaucracy and the politics of the post office,” he said. “But I will miss everybody who came in here every day.”

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Originally published in The Commons issue #188 (Wednesday, January 30, 2013).

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