NORTH SMITHFIELD – This week, Donna Hagan sold her final book of stamps, and said goodbye to regular customers, many of whom she’s served for more than three decades.
Hagan retired this week after 35 years at the Slatersville Post Office, moving on for new horizons.
A Blackstone native, Hagan was hired in 1985, just one year after former postmaster Christine Charest. The well-known duo shared both professional and personnel achievements in North Smithfield, raising children of roughly the same age.
“Donna and I met when our two oldest took gymnastics class together, but we didn’t know that until we started working together,” said Charest.
Hagan was first hired for a job as a part time flexible clerk at the Main Street facility by postmaster Guido Gosetti, filling a position left vacant when Charest moved up to a full time role.
The mother of two girls – both graduates from North Smithfield High School – again had the chance to follow in her friend’s footsteps in 1998, when Charest was appointed postmaster.
“It was one of the best and happiest jobs I was able to accomplish, making her the full time clerk, taking my position,” Charest said.
Hagans’ years as a sales and service associate at the quaint village post office included warm relationships with patrons, and plenty of fun, like taking part in the facility’s popular Letters to Santa program. The small USPS location historically has had only two full time, and up to two part time employees.
“She was wonderful to work with. Always a smile, the most easy going person in the office,” said Charest.
And she and cohort Charest spent almost as much time together outside the office, with their oldest children in the same graduating class, and youngest children just one year apart.
The two attended school functions, chaperoned trips, and even coached soccer together. Postal customers pitched in to sponsor the team, known as The Slatersville POPS, short for Post Office Patrons.
A third amigo joined the team around ten years ago, when part time employee Kathleen Fernandes transferred to Slatersville from the Glendale Post Office.
Hagan has outstayed Charest, who retired in 2015.
And it seems her final year came with its own set of challenges for the remaining staff.
When COVID-19 struck the region in March and most offices went dark, with staff working from home, the lights stayed on at 42 Main St. Hagan found herself becoming an essential worker through a pandemic, and the small number of employees in Slatersville left little leeway for time off.
In November, that staff joined post offices across America in processing an unprecedented number of mail ballots through the election.
But nothing could prepare them for Christmas of 2020, and Hagan continued to confide in her longtime friend and co-worker.
“I felt bad that I couldn’t be there helping them,” Charest said. “This situation was probably worse than her last 34 Christmases there.”
The holidays, of course, are always a busy time at the post office, but this year’s Christmas saw not just an increase in the number of gifts shipped, but also a record amount of online shopping. The amount of work quadrupled – with no extra staffing.
But the dedicated worker persevered through the office’s toughest time, and had her last unofficial day of work on Thursday, Jan 14. She has sick time saved up, so it won’t become official until January 31.
Hagan, who now lives in Harrisville, recently became a grandmother for the third time. She enjoyed a small and intimate retirement celebration with a few postal friends – including Charest, of course – this week.
And Fernandes hopes to join her friends soon.
“Looking forward now, to be able to just spend quiet friend time together with all the others who have retired as well,” said Charest, adding of Hagan, “Great employee. Better friend.”