Rose Daniels, who retired this week after a 33-year career as a postal clerk — with most of that time spent in her adopted hometown of Sag Harbor — has little trouble naming her favorite stamp.
“Two Chinese cranes. It was a beautiful muted, green stamp,” she said. “It was a good eight to 10 years ago. I liked it so much I even used it for my Christmas stamp.”
After more than three decades behind the counter, Ms. Daniels, 67, has sold her fair share of stamps, counseled customers on shipping options, and fielded her share of complaints.
It’s all part of a day’s work. “The customers are what make your job,” she said. “They come in and tell you what they need and what they want, and you try to deliver that to them because without them, we’re nothing. We have to try to make our customers happy.”
On Monday, as the 5 p.m. closing time approached, and a long line of customers waited in the lobby, some a little more patiently than others, a small official delegation arrived at the post office.
Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming and Sag Harbor Mayor Kathleen Mulcahy presented Ms. Daniels with a proclamation, recognizing her career and thanking her for her many years of service. Ms. Mulcahy added a special bonus — the banner from the village’s “Wear a Mask” campaign featuring a photograph of Ms. Daniels.
Ms. Daniels’s brothers, Walter, who lives in Germany, James, who lives in California, and Erwin, who lives in Georgia, had planned to come to Sag Harbor for their sister’s big day (with Walter surprising her), but after talking it over, they concluded the risk of contracting COVID-19 was simply too high. Instead, they looked on via a Zoom call set up by one of Ms. Daniels’s coworkers. “It was better to be safe than sorry,” Ms. Daniels said.
There were other well-wishers as well, and bouquets of flowers, balloons, and other gifts crowded Ms. Daniels’s work station.
Ms. Daniels and her co-workers also cooked up a little surprise for customers, serving them virgin pina coladas during her final shift.
Linda Anderson, a village resident, waited in line with a poinsettia plant, with her friend, Suzan Johnson Cook, the former ambassador for international religious freedom during the Obama administration.
“She always made sure our mail was delivered or forwarded,” said Ms. Johnson Cook.
Another customer, Maureen Griffin, said Sag Harbor would miss its most recognizable postal clerk. “She’s a wonderful worker, a wonderful lady,” she said.
News of Ms. Daniels’s impending retirement took Robin Schiavoni by surprise. “Oh my God!” she exclaimed. “Good for her! I love Rose!”
Ms. Daniels’s co-workers also said they were sad to see her go. “I wish her the best of luck on her new journey,” said Abenaa Shine. “It’s not going to be the same without her,” added Rick Grigonis.
“It’s going to take a long time to replace her,” said Postmaster Fernando Cardeno, who added that Ms. Daniels would take a wealth of institutional knowledge with her. “When people like Rose retire, you want to ask them if they can make a guide book or a cheat sheet to leave behind,” he said.
Ms. Daniels was born in Frankfurt, Germany. Her father served in the U.S. Army and her mother was a native German. The family moved to Queens when she was 3 ½ and eventually came east to Sag Harbor after her father retired and built a home in the Azurest neighborhood in 1971.
Before moving east, Ms. Daniels worked for the telephone company in New York City. On the East End, she held several jobs, including working in the butcher department at King Kullen in Bridgehampton. She said her letter carrier, Phil Cicero, encouraged her to apply to the post office.
She landed a job in East Hampton in 1987, working as both a clerk at the counter as well as in the back room, where she helped sort mail and did other chores.
When there was an opening in Sag Harbor a couple of years later, Ms. Daniels said she jumped at it. “It was the best thing I did,” she said. “Sag Harbor has a certain charm.”
Over her long career, Ms. Daniels said she has seen plenty of changes. “Now everything is rush in and rush out. It’s a world of speed. Nobody wants to slow down or stop and smell the roses,” she said. “And nobody writes letters anymore. I think that’s sad because there is nothing to save.”
Not surprisingly, she is something of a holdout. “I still write thank-you cards by hand,” she said. “And I pay all my bills with a stamp.”