As Santa climbs aboard his sleigh on Christmas Eve to bring joy to people around the world, a Ladysmith postal carrier also will be making the rounds.
Candy Patrick has worked 35 years total for the U.S. Postal Service, starting in 1985 as a rural carrier in the southeastern Wisconsin community of Palmyra. She transferred to Ladysmith in 2000, when she became a city carrier.
Her last full day delivering mail will be Wednesday, Dec. 23, with a half-day scheduled for Christmas Eve.
Jim and Candy Patrick moved to Rusk County 20 years ago as her husband was looking for a hunting cabin closer to where he had family and starting a new construction business. When the couple moved, Ladysmith had a city carrier route open, and she accepted it.
Candy at first received a cool response from the city’s postmaster, who acknowledged the office was willing to take a chance on the new carrier and, “Hoping she works out.”
“I think I worked out,” Candy said.
Candy first became interested in the postal service through her mother, Dorothy Johnson, who had been postmaster in Palmyra in Jefferson County. As Johnson retired, she encouraged her daughter to enter the profession.
“She said it was a good job and I should think about it,” Candy said.
She received more encouragement from other family members including her husband’s uncle, Ralph Patrick, who was the rural carrier in the Conrath Post Office. Jim’s aunt and uncle ran the Conrath Post Office, and they always said it was a good job.
“I started here in Ladysmith, and I have been here ever since,” Candy said. “I worked with some great people like Bill Leonhard and Don Kalla. They taught me a lot.”
Being new to the area 20 years ago, it took Candy a while to learn the new names and faces. Longtime locals often refer to residences by the last names of people who live in the homes, but mail carriers go by physical building addresses.
She didn’t know the community. She didn’t know the streets. She didn’t know the area, but that didn’t stop her appointed rounds. In time, she became a common sight along her city park-and-loop route on which she drives 10 miles and walks another 11 miles nearly every day of the week.
The route has more than 600 stops in all kinds of weather.
“I love being outside. I love the contact with the people. That is going to be the part I am going to miss most, and that is the people. You get a relationship, a bond, with some of them, especially the senior citizens,” Candy said.
At Greenwood Manor on Miner Avenue, she is the constant in the lives of many seniors who live in the city apartment complex.
“They ask how the kids are doing. They ask about the dog. You get to learn to know the people, and I think the hardest part of retirement will be not seeing the people,” she said.
Candy routinely stops and checks on many elderly along her route.
“You stop and check on them every day to make sure they are OK. It is going to be tough, but it will be good,” she said.
Candy is looking forward to traveling. She also enjoys quilting, and now in retirement she will have more time to put toward that hobby.
The Patricks also have two adult children and seven grandchildren.
“Now we can make the kids’ baseball games and basketball games, and all that good stuff,” Candy said.
Over the years, the longtime carrier has delivered mail in all kinds of weather. Fall is her favorite season, but she won’t miss the soaking spring rains.
“In fall you are not hot. There is the nice crisp air, and I like the colors as they change,” Candy said. “But with the rains in spring there is nothing worse than being soaked all the way through at the end of the day and then going home. With snow you don’t get soaked. With rain you get soaked all the way through. It makes it miserable.”
Her route has remained mostly unchanged during her 20 years delivering mail in Ladysmith. She is often spotted in the downtown and surrounding neighborhoods, parking her postal van and then walking city streets and sidewalks. With armfuls of mail, she makes the trek, door to door. She laughs, telling the story about how she hears others talk about how she walks the route — especially in winter — without a hat on her head.
“I have had more offers from people wanting to buy me a hat in the winter time” Candy said. “You have to keep moving. You can’t sit still.”
Ladysmith Postmaster Kat Fiebig believes Candy’s route might be even more than the combined 21 miles of walking and driving the carrier estimates. She called Candy’s retirement “well deserved.”
“She has been an asset. We will definitely miss her when she is gone,” Fiebig said.
Candy has been a very dedicated carrier, according to Fiebig. She added Candy was always willing to go above and beyond to help when needed.
“We are going to miss her. We are pretending like it is not happening,” Fiebig said.
Candy has been counting down the days to retirement for a while.
Her first day of retirement will be Saturday, Dec. 26.
“I am going to sit down and put my feet up,” she said.
That will be a welcome relief after covering a park-and-loop route spanning 11 miles of daily walking that annually wore out three pairs of shoes for the last 20 years.
“It is time to move on. It is time to call it quits,” Candy said.
She knows she’ll miss the route that has been her life for two decades.
“I stayed with it because I just liked it. I loved my job,” she said.
An interim carrier is being trained until a permanent carrier is found.