Northfield postmaster retiring after nearly 36 years federal service

  • Bruce Hazen, 56, of Athol, is retiring as postmaster of the Northfield Post Office. October 4, 2017. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz—Paul Franz

  • Bruce Hazen, 56, of Athol, is retiring as postmaster of the Northfield Post Office. October 4, 2017. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz—Paul Franz

Recorder Staff
Sunday, October 08, 2017

NORTHFIELD — When Bruce Hazen found his first job in the postal service at 25 years old, he wanted to discover his career path, and a job he would want to retire from.

About 31 years later, Hazen is about to do just that. Now 56, he will retire from being Northfield’s postmaster, a position he has held since 2006, after his last day on Oct. 27.

“This has been my home for 11 years, six days a week, sometimes seven,” Hazen said while standing outside Northfield’s post office on a recent afternoon. “It’s hard to believe the days have ticked off like they have.”

Visitors to the post office at 136 Main St. may have noticed his employees offered a card for anyone to sign, congratulating Hazen on his retirement. Employees also threw him a retirement party, illustrating what Hazen said he liked best about his job: the people.

“I’ve been blessed by working with so many people over the years,” he began. “Without them, my career wouldn’t be what it is.”

“The biggest memory I’ll take away is all the people. The customers, the employees, the relationships I’ve made over the years,” he said. “Those are something that can never be taken away.”

Though a resident of Athol, Hazen got to know members of the Northfield community over the post office counter, which was just one of his roles as postmaster. He remembered how residents welcomed him when he transitioned from working in Shirley, presenting him with the newspaper article that was written about him at the time, and one little girl who always wanted her hand stamped with a smiley face stamp.

“Now that young lady goes to Pioneer,” he said. “You see the growth.”

You name it, he’s done it

Over the years, Hazen worked his way through the postal service ranks, starting as a clerk in Montague in 1986. He previously worked at a factory in Gardner, manufacturing office chairs, but the company announced it was moving to North Carolina, leaving him looking for work.

“I just wanted a change,” he said. “I wanted something long term.”

Hazen credits the Montague postmaster, Doris Aubin, for starting him on his journey through working as a clerk.

“It was overwhelming at first, to me,” he remembered of his introduction to the postal service. “Eventually you blend in and just go.”

He later transferred to Winchendon, where he was a clerk and carrier; to Gardner in 1987, as a city carrier; to Athol in 1997, as supervisor; to Shirley in 2005, as officer-in-charge; and finally to Northfield in 2006, as postmaster.

“Honestly, there’s not much in the postal service I haven’t done,” he said. “I think the working knowledge of all positions helped me as postmaster. I’ve lived it.”

A day in Northfield

In Northfield, Hazen oversees eight employees in processing and delivering mail, works with customers at the counter, performs administrative tasks and otherwise “acts as a liaison to the community for the postal service.” Each day, mail arrives to the post office between 5 and 7 a.m., is sorted and then distributed by the carriers. More outgoing mail is prepared for pickup at around 5 p.m.

“Each day presents its own challenges,” he said, whether it be winter weather, vehicle breakdowns or employees coming down sick. “You have to step up and make it happen … The mail is going to get delivered.”

Sometimes, that’s even meant Hazen himself walking or driving through Northfield for deliveries, he said.

Changing times have also brought changing systems, Hazen recounted. When he started in 1986, accounting was done by hand with pen and paper, a process that’s since been replaced by computers. Letter volume has decreased due to new communication technologies, but due to the ease of online ordering, Hazen said the postal service delivers more parcels than it has in years.

What now?

Entering retirement at 56 due to his additional service in the Marine Corps from 1979 to 1983, making for just shy of 36 years of federal service, Hazen said he and his wife Nancy will be moving south. For now, that means leaving for Florida, where Hazen said he’ll get reacquainted with his golf clubs.

A new postmaster for Northfield hasn’t been appointed yet, Hazen said, explaining that one of his employees will become officer-in-charge, rather like an interim postmaster, until a replacement is found.

But Hazen said he’ll be back to Massachusetts in the spring to coach girls softball at the Athol-Royalston Middle School, something he might pursue in Florida too.

“The beauty of being retired is I don’t have to make that decision just yet,” he said.

Reach Shelby Ashline at: sashline@recorder.com

413-772-0261, ext. 257