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MaryAnn Mingo and Tom Holweger are retiring from the Detroit Lakes Post Office after decades on the job. Mingo worked at the front counter, and said she plans to look for a different job at some point. Holweger maintained the building and grounds, and he and his wife own Buffalo Lake Campground, where he will be spending more of his time this summer. Pippi Mayfield/Record

Four take early retirement from DL Post Office

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There seems to be a common theme among those retiring from the Detroit Lakes Post Office -- this isn't truly a retirement.

"I've never been without a job yet and I don't see that happening now," Tom Holweger said. "This is just another stage in life. It's not retirement, retirement."

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The U.S. Postal Service offered an early-out retirement for qualifying employees, and four Detroit Lakes employees took the offer. Holweger, Maryann Mingo, Ron Buschette and Don Hlubek, with a combined total of 118 years at the USPS -- retired Jan. 31.

Since there are people at the post office at all hours of the day, and those retiring worked various shifts, Holweger said there was a non-stop potluck and cake all day Thursday.

A campground to run

Holweger and his wife have own Buffalo Lake Campground for the past 22 years. He said it was never a full-time income, so he got a job with the USPS, and his wife works at Detroit Lakes school. Since she had summers off, she worked the campground full time, while Holweger worked at the post office. Now, he can help full time at the campground as well.

He started out as a letter carrier, and did that for six years before switching to maintenance, which he has done since. It was the winter of 1997, when the area had insane amounts of snow, when he decided it was time to get out of the letter carrying business.

"We had to climb over these piles of snow," he said. "It was really a blessing to get out of it."

So now instead of maintaining the postal office grounds and building, he can concentrate on his own. Not only will he be working at the campground, he plans to spend some time in the sun this summer. He said he's looking forward to more time on the motorcycle, in the convertible and on the pontoon.

He's also working on rebuilding a 1937 Chevy.

He said that working at the post office has provided him with more acquaintances and friends than ever.

"I've made a lot of good friends, without a doubt," he said. "We won't just walk away. We'll still see people all the time.

"This has been more than a good place to work."

Still time for something new

Mingo, who put in 30 years with the postal service, started her career in Minneapolis. Her uncle was a carrier, so she knew the good pay and benefits the USPS had to offer. She took the test to work for the postal service but didn't get a call for a while.

"Then, I got a letter on Thursday that I started on Monday," she said.

She transferred to Detroit Lakes after a brief time in Minneapolis, and worked 17 years on nights before moving to the front of the building as a clerk.

"I probably got in trouble for talking too much," she said with a laugh of being able to chat with the public on a regular basis. "I'll miss the people."

In her years upfront, she said she only had a few really unpleasant customers, but you learn to deal with them like any other job. There were many others she developed friendships with as she got to see them on a regular basis.

"I wouldn't have left here if they hadn't had an early out," she said.

But, with foster kids living with her and her husband, and other tasks to tend to, it'll be nice to be able to slow down a little and focus on other projects.

"Going to work isn't everything. It will be nice to have my house clean."

She won't miss having to be at work by 5 a.m., but always felt blessed to have a good job.

"I've had to do things I liked less and made a lot less (money)."

Now she'll have more time for fishing, her grandkids and sewing.

"It's nice to know I don't have to hurry and get to work."

After some time off though, she said she plans to get at least a part-time job somewhere. She said she's been looking through the classified ads since deciding to retire, "to see where I could fit in."

Luckily, she said she's found quite a few options.

Perfect timing

After 28 years with the USPS, Hlubek planned to retired at the end of February. Then the early-out option came up, and he was able to "retire" a month early with an added bonus the post office paid with the early-out option.

"This popped up at the right time," he said.

Hlubek said he got his start after he "saw an ad in the paper to take the test" for the postal service. He was hired on and worked in Fargo for three months before transferring to Detroit Lakes where he's worked nights as a clerk ever since.

For several years in the beginning, he said he would also carry part of a route and then go back to the post office and sort mail.

But mail is the last thing on his mind now. As is the cold weather.

His plans now consist of heading south for the next couple months, getting out of the Minnesota winters. He said he plans to visit friends and relatives he hasn't seen in years.

After that though, he has no definite plans.

One thing he'll be working on for sure is restoring vintage vehicles. He's working on rebuilding a 1958 Chevy Impala and a 1957 Oldsmobile 98. (He and Holweger will be seeing each other since they are in the same car club.)

More time at daycare, outdoors

With the most years in at the post office, Buschette said he was already contemplating retiring in the next year or so when the early-out option was presented.

"I had enough years in and it was in the back of my head," he said of possible retirement. "This was the time to do it."

He worked nights in Detroit Lakes for his entire 38 years with the post office -- 40 years counting his military time.

While in the Army, Buschette served as a mail clerk and enjoyed it. So when he got out of the service, he applied to continue that career with the postal service.

"Everything was manual when I started," he said. "It was a lot more manual labor."

Now with the automation of everything, the workload hasn't slowed, just changed. Buschette said the job has always been very physical, with lifting and moving tubs, sacks and trays of mail, but that's the part he's really enjoyed.

Now, he'll be able to spend more time outdoors and with his four grandchildren.

Buschette and his wife provide daycare for their grandchildren three days a week, and while he always helped out in the past, it will be easier now that he can get a good night's sleep first.

"I just won't be as tired," he said with a smile.

He also plans to spend his time hunting, fishing and gardening -- "mostly the same things" that he does now. With his schedule of working nights and then sleeping in the morning, he said he's always had the ability to do the activities he enjoys.

"I'll miss the social aspect, visiting with the other clerks," he said. "But I also look forward to more time for recreational things and ourselves."

Follow Pippi Mayfield on Twitter at @PippiMayfield.

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