August 2007 Issue
Stamp of Approval
At 6:30 a.m., Verna Naylor of Bentonville awakens and leaves her bedroom. Ready to start the day, she makes her way downstairs.
While most people are heading to their kitchen first thing in the morning to brew a cup of coffee or pour a bowl of cereal, Naylor is stepping into the town's post office, located in the basement of her home.
At age 91, she holds the title of oldest female postmaster in the country.
It was Naylor's husband, Harry, who began operating the post office in 1948. When he died 20 years later, his widow took over his duties.
As she sorts through the mail for the 20 to 30 residents who stop by daily (Bentonville has a population of approximately 200), Naylor also manages to keep an ear tuned to what's happening in her community. In the two-room space equipped with old-fashioned post-office boxes, she chats with customers in between weighing and stamping mail.
"I'm on a highway, and a lot of folks stop by," Naylor says.
Although the look –– and price –– of stamps has changed over the decades Naylor has been postmaster, she says her customers know to expect the same service they've always had –– and can count on it in the future since her son and two daughters are slated to keep the family's postal tradition alive once their mother retires.
"Everyone is happy," she says. "My neighbors have been the same for 50 years, and we raised our children together. We're all just one big family."