In February, Fidelity's Post Office Gets Busy

This time of year, the Fidelity, Ill., post office gets Valentine's Day cards from around the country, just to be stamped with the Fidelity postmark. The mark is applied by hand, one at a time. Melissa Block talks with Shirley Ruyle, the postmaster of Fidelity.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

And I'm Melissa Block.

In the town of Fidelity, Illinois, population just over 100, this is an especially busy time of year for the postmaster, Shirley Ruyle. She'll get valentines sent to her at the Fidelity Post Office from around the country, the envelopes stamped and addressed and ready for her to stamp with a Fidelity postmark. She carefully handles each one so it won't smudge and sends them on.

Shirley Ruyle says most people include a note to her with their request, and reading those notes is her favorite part of the job.

Ms. SHIRLEY RUYLE (Postmaster, Fidelity, Illinois): Some of them are just I would like your post mark, then some of them have little notes with them. Here's one.

"Could you please postmark this letter for me? It's going to my wonderful boyfriend Jonathan. He is the love of my life, and I couldn't be happier with him. t's funny how you meet the ones you fall in love with. We met a year ago at my work. I was working and he was the cute volunteer. Well, I'm sure you're tired of reading this, so if you could postmark my letter it would be greatly appreciated."

BLOCK: It must be fun to get the tiny little glimpse into somebody's life?

Ms. RUYLE: Yes. It is.

This one says, "Dear postmaster, I'm requesting the envelope I enclosed be postmarked from your post office. My husband and I would have been married 64 years in December 2006. He passed away in February, six days after his 85th birthday. Among the flowers I will put on his grave, I want to include this envelope stamped Fidelity."

BLOCK: And what it's like to get a note like that?

Ms. RUYLE: I'm not going to cry now. So that means, you know, it have to mean a lot to her to put it on his grave. And then when I, when I get wedding invitations. You know, I get like 200-300 in the box sometimes. And you do them by hand one at a time to let it dry.

BLOCK: This is so - it seems to be just above and beyond what you're job description would say. And does this ever get tiresome? When you get all these letters that need to be stamped.

Ms. RUYLE: Oh, no. Is it boring to you as you listened to them?

BLOCK: No, it's not. But I don't have to stamp them.

Ms. RUYLE: Well, that's no big deal. And this is important to him.

BLOCK: Well, I can tell it's important to you, too.

Ms. RUYLE: It is very important to me to make them happy. If I can do one little thing with a stamp or postmark or cancellation to make their day -that's so easy. I would do that for my husband, but he wouldn't get too excited over the Fidelity postmark, because we've lived around here for, well, like I said, I started here in 1991. So.

BLOCK: Right. You take Fidelity for granted there.

Ms. RUYLE: Yeah, they do. People are surprised of this town. It's like why are they calling you? Why is the newspaper here? And I'll say they send their valentines here because they want them marked Fidelity. Well, what's special about that?

Well, I hope you're not married. You're not getting it.

BLOCK: Shirley Ruyle, thanks so much. We enjoyed talking to you.

Ms. RUYLE: Okay. Thank you. Bye-bye.

BLOCK: Bye. Shirley Ruyle is the postmaster of Fidelity, Illinois. She was speaking with us from the post office. She also says if people forget to put a stamp on their valentine, she might just pop one on herself. She says I don't want to disappoint him.

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