Norman Bouwie serves a postal customer while Becky Foth (right) observes. Foth, from Valley Center, is the new ?officer in charge.?
As Foth continues to familiarize herself with the Hillsboro operation, Bouwie said he plans to begin his retirement by taking the summer off for personal pursuits.
?I am working on a family reunion and my church is organizing a food pantry and needs help,? he said.
Some attending the retirement party talked about Bouwie?s generosity and concern for others.
?I am sad to see him go,? said Jared Jost of Hillsboro. ?Norman connected with people on a personal level, praying for our child.?
One of the maintenance employees at the post office, Harold Woelk, and his wife, Lou, also expressed good wishes.
?He is a fantastic guy,? Harold said, ?and we had a very good and enjoyable relationship.?
Lou Woelk said Bouwie showed consideration for the needs of other people. She mentioned a time when she and Harold needed to leave for a personal, family issue.
?Norman was kind and understanding about giving us the freedom (and the time-off to take care of the matter),? she said.
More than three decades since starting his career with USPS, Bouwie said he has seen a lot of changes in the day-to-day operations and the paperwork.
?There?s always been paperwork to do, but it?s a lot more than before,? he said.
Functioning in today?s post office is also more difficult than in the past.
?When someone quits, there are no replacements,? he said.
While advancements in technology have speeded things up in the major arteries of the postal service, Bouwie said it has come at a price.
His first day in Hillsboro was Jan. 23, 1993, and including himself, Bouwie said he had 13 employees?a supervisor, three clerks, three city mail carriers, four rural carriers and one custodian. Today, the Hillsboro office does not have a supervisor and has two fewer clerks.
?It?s a mix between manual and automated in Hillsboro,? he said, ?requiring less employees.?
Bouwie said he sees the changes today as similar to the reorganization done several years back.
?(The reorganization) gave postal employees an early out, which opened up a lot of jobs for other people.?
He said he sees the same thing happening again, but this time he is taking the out.
It?s not doom and gloom for Bouwie, though. He said retirement is going to give him opportunities he hasn?t had in a long time.
Willie and Jean Gray of Wichita, who have been friends with Bouwie and his wife, Lealona, for more than 20 years, said he will probably do some traveling.
?In retirement, Norman will have more time to go to KU and see his son Matthew,? Jean said.
Lealona said she?s glad her husband is no longer commuting from Wichita to Hillsboro and putting in more than 12 hours a day.
Unbeknown to Norman, Lealona has already decided what?s going to be a priority in retirement.
?One of the first things we will both begin doing is going to the gym,? she said.
Bouwie said after he completes a few of his summer projects, he will probably put his Wichita State University finance degree to use as a tax preparer.
The Bouwies have three boys: Martin Luther, 33, Norman III, 28, and Matthew, 21.