Delivering mail to 80 houses in the Pe Ell area started as a part-time gig for Lisa-Marie Wilson to earn some extra money as a stay-at-home mom.
But in the nine and a half years Wilson has been Pe Ell’s self-proclaimed “Mail Lady,” Wilson has developed a strong sense of responsibility toward the residents of Pe Ell, who she calls her customers.
“I love my customers. I give them Christmas cards every year … I've got one customer that calls me his girlfriend, which just cracks me up,” Wilson said. “Everyone's super friendly. They always smile and greet me. They're understanding if I make mistakes on the route, you know, if I miss-deliver something. They’re really good people and I respect them and it's been an honor to deliver their mail and packages all this time.”
It takes Wilson approximately two and a half hours to run the full Pe Ell mail route in her personal 1982 DJ-5 Postal Jeep, which Wilson has decorated with an assortment of colorful stickers to add some flair to the already unique ride.
“I just put stickers on. It's inexpensive. And then when the rain washes (them) off, I can add more personality to it. Whatever mood I'm in that day,” she said.
The jeep is the latest in a line of five vehicles Wilson has sacrificed to the mail route.
“I’ve delivered the route and just about every vehicle you can imagine, including a red convertible,” Wilson said.
“One of my customers didn't realize it was me delivering his mail because my car had broken down and the only option I had was my mom's convertible. So I did deliver the mail in the red convertible and he chased me down for four or five blocks trying to figure out what I was doing at his mailbox,” she recalled.
She was quick to stop and explain that she was his mail lady and was just driving a different car that day.
“That was a funny story. I never would have expected that to happen.”
She goes by the nickname “The Mail Lady” because, she explained, people rarely take the time to learn someone’s name when they’re providing a service.
“And it's fun. I'm there out in my car, turn my music on loud, do my job. I get the beautiful sights of Pe Ell while I'm doing it, the wildlife nature, and the crazy drivers — which are everywhere,” she said.
Wilson started as a substitute mail carrier with the company that contracted Pe Ell route from the U.S. Postal Service, but took over as Pe Ell’s full-time mail carrier when her predecessor left the position. There used to be a substitute carrier on hand to take over the route if Wilson had to take a day off, but that position has been vacant for some time, Wilson said.
“It's stressful because I want to make sure my customers still get their mail delivered and their packages, but again, it's a six day a week thing and it’s not a long portion of my day, but it does cut into it.”
While she deeply enjoys being Pe Ell’s Mail Lady and feels a responsibility toward her customers, Wilson is ready to move on to the next chapter of her life: becoming a medical assistant.
“I’m going to night school, so I can’t just keep doing this forever,” she said.
At age 50, Wilson started a 10-month program last month at Charter College in Lacey to become a medical assistant.
“It's hard three nights a week showing up there and then coming home and I’ve got my daughter and then my four granddaughters, married life, job still. Everybody’s supportive and we’re all making it work,” she said.
A career in medicine wasn’t something Wilson was interested in until her mother, who was previously diagnosed with lymphoma, went into remission during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I just felt like there was more I could do. I did the mask sewing thing … but it just didn’t feel like I was doing enough. There’s got to be something more I can do to help my fellow human being. So medical is the way I chose to go,” she said.
Her customers have had mixed responses to the news that she’ll no longer be delivering their mail, she said.
“Some of them are not very happy about it at all, and then most of them are very supportive. You know, when they said, ‘Well, what are you going to do instead? And I tell them ‘medical assisting, and I'm hoping to eventually specialize in oncology medical assisting,’ they are very, very supportive and they're happy for me to see me making progress,” she said.
April 30 was supposed to be Wilson's last day delivering Pe Ell’s mail, but Wilson agreed to stay on longer due to difficulties hiring her replacement.
“I'm trying to leave. But it's really difficult to take that final step, not knowing the routes are covered by someone who's responsible and is gonna take care of my customers,” she said.