One last post

Published 9:50 pm Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Postal clerk Lee Ann Burnette, behind the window at the Suffolk post office, retired on Wednesday after 36 years and seven months.

Postal clerk Lee Ann Burnette, behind the window at the Suffolk post office, retired on Wednesday after 36 years and seven months.

According to the tales of a Suffolk woman who retired on Wednesday after more than three and a half decades with the postal service, working behind the counter in a post office isn’t as mundane as it might seem.

Lee Ann Burnette retired from North Main Street the post office. She began her postal career on Dec. 6, 1978, but neither her start date nor her retirement date will ever displace the day she inadvertently mailed a bomb as the most interesting day of her career, she said.

That was in 1994, the same year O.J. Simpson was accused of murdering his ex-wife and her friend.

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A husband, she said, had addressed the bomb to his wife’s lover in New York.

“I didn’t know it was a bomb,” Burnette clarified. “I had a postal inspector come and talk to me and ask me all kinds of questions.”

Today, she remembers clearly today what the man looked like, Burnette said, but at the time, she was too unsure to point him out in a police lineup.

“They never told me anything about it,” she said. “I happened to see it on the TV one afternoon. They called it the ‘marriage bomb.’”

There was also the time Burnette helped postal inspectors in a drug sting. She was asked, she said, to raise the alarm if a man came to the counter to collect a package addressed to him in Suffolk.

“Postal inspectors swarmed him before he got out the door,” she recalled.

Then, sometime in the past five years — not that long ago in the context of her career — there was the time Burnette saved her co-workers from a water moccasin that found its way into the downtown post office. She startled it by throwing a book at it while someone fetched a shovel, and then she wielded the shovel to chop the serpent’s head off.

Burnette said her career started at the Zuni post office, and she came to North Main Street in May 1981.

She worked at the window in downtown Suffolk for 19 years, then went to Whaleyville post office for 32 months before returning to the Suffolk branch.

Another tale is how Burnette landed her post office gig in the first place. Not long after graduating from college in May 1977, she says, she visited her hometown post office to send some letters to friends back at school.

The officer in charge — a young man — started flirting with her. “He said there was a position open, and he kept after me to take the test,” Burnette said.

She took the test and was duly hired.

Now, she said, she feels it’s time to give someone else a chance to step up, adding her career enabled her to raise two kids on her own from the ages of 11 and 12. They’re now 31 and 32.

“I can truly say that I have loved my job,” she said. “I enjoyed it, because I love people. That’s what it’s all about — we are supposed to love and be kind to one another.”

Burnette is also getting married this month.

“I’m going on my new journey,” she said.