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Postmaster retires

Ironton postmaster Al Barr clasped his hands behind his head, producing his short philosophy on being a postman.

Thursday, October 21, 1999

Ironton postmaster Al Barr clasped his hands behind his head, producing his short philosophy on being a postman.

"I think it’s an honorable job ," he said. "It’s the last, great bargain in America – that you can send a letter anywhere in the United States for 33 cents and be assured it will be delivered."

On Oct. 29, though, after 34 years, Barr will leave that honorable job in favor of retirement’s greener pastures.

"I think every day that goes by, ‘I’ll never have to do this again,’" he said, with a little smile. "But I’ll miss the people here and the interaction with the community this job gives."

Barr’s wife, Linda, will retire the same day from Firstar bank. The couple plan to finish their new house in Manchester, travel and spend time with grandchildren.

Barr, a native of Bolivar, left the Columbus Post Office to become Ironton’s new postmaster in March 1977.

Yet, that was not his dream job, nor his first U.S. Postal Service job.

"I was always mechanical," he said. "My mother said I could always fix anything."

So, Barr entered college, thinking he would try the sciences. Later, he would receive an engineering degree, but only after a few unsuccessful tries.

Between one of those attempts, about 1965, Barr went looking for a job. Vietnam and his 1A draft status kept employers shaking their heads, except for one.

"The postmaster in Westerville hired me, then I spent two years in the Army, got out There wasn’t much to do so I went back to the post office," Barr said.

"And I’m still here," he said. "I’ve carried and clerked and supervised … If there’s a job to be done in the postal service, I’ve done it."

Like all public service professions, the U.S. Postal Service has offered challenges and, sometimes, headaches daily, yet the career has been worth it, Barr said.

"I look at how far we’ve come from when I first came here," he said. "I turned it around, made it more efficient and it works."

Barr credits good employees, an understanding public and good business attitudes for the success.

"You do the best job you can do, make sure everything’s on time and delivered – that’s what this is all about."

Since 1977, there have been only two days that mail was not delivered, both due to blizzards, which is quite a feat considering today’s mail volume tops 11,000 deliveries out of Ironton each day on 18 routes, Barr said.

There is truth in the saying, ‘Neither rain, nor sleet, nor snow ,’ but floods and police-imposed driving restrictions can sometimes slow or halt the mail, he said.

But the attitude, and determination to deliver, always remain, he added.

Barr’s temporary replacement, Tom Sanders of Gallipolis, will be the "officer in charge" until the U.S. Postal Service hires a permanent postmaster, Barr said.

Next Friday, after Barr moves out, thoughts will turn to the couple’s new home, and a recently purchased motor home, he said.

The couple have always traveled around the country, and made it to all The Ohio State University home games.

"Our problem is we’ve seen everything from the air and never much from the ground," Barr said. "Maybe this time we’ll see a little more."

In January, they will begin a three-month stay in Florida, hopefully having finished their new house, he said.

The couple have three grown children – Kevin and Lisa, who live in Cincinnati, and Chris, who lives in Lawrence County – and seven grandchildren.