Fran Kunkel retires from Salem Post Office

Fran Kunkel /Earlene Frederick photo

Fran Kunkel /Earlene Frederick photo

Fran Kunkel has retired from the Salem Post Office after 25 years of getting out the mail.

Co-workers and family marked the occasion Thursday with a surprise ceremony Thursday morning at the post office.

Here’s a summary of Kunkel’s career from the perspective of  Rachel Bisom, Fran’s daughter:

My mom is a mail lady (the BEST mail lady – but that came with time). She was not my bus driver. But as a 16 year old learning she was taking a driving test, my mind immediately wondered what she could be doing that she had to take a driving test. Of course I thought, “high school bus driver,” and that my life was over! Luckily for all of her “Mail Route Family”, she was starting a new job as a mail carrier for the town of Bristol. Looking back, this choice of work doesn’t surprise her husband Larry of 35 years, or us kids (Rachel, 41, Greg, 34, and Heidi, 32). Mom was always a work-a-holic and always did whatever she could to add an extra income. She was a mom first, had babysat, was a gas pay attendant at the old Benson Corners when a tiny 4’ x 4’ “cage” was considered an office, picked vegetables on a farm, waitressed (just because she liked the people), and finally began her quest to find a “career”. She is organized and is quick with her hands, which definitely show their wear and tear with sorting tubs and trays of mail on a daily basis. In fact, she would’ve been a perfect person to walk the route. Dad always called her “Edith” [of Archie Bunker] because she was always running, not walking, to places – in the house, at the store, on the lawn, etc. But alas, she had a right-hand vehicle for many years until the USPS provided LLV’s (Long Life Vehicles) on the rural routes. She started as a rural mail carrier in about 1987 or so as a sub for routes in Bristol and eventually Salem, WI on several different mail routes. In a couple of years, on April 7, 1990, through fate, she had gone from part-time sub to full-time sub for a lady out on leave. The route was then awarded hers through a process known as “bidding”. Little did she know, these postal customers would become another family to her. Throughout her 23 years or so, she has seen many changes to her route. Because of what they call “mail count” the Government directs the office to basically count each piece and type of mail to see how much is going through each post office. Each piece is assigned an amount of time, and that calculates to how much time each particular route should take, based on the average person. But because my mom was “Edith”, she got done earlier than they said it should take. Later, with cut backs in people sending mail vs email, the routes of many carriers have been cut and reshaped to include or exclude new areas in town. She would have to then re-label her case and say goodbye to people she had grown to call friends, and say hi to new ones. She has stayed friends with many as she sees them in local stores or on the road. Her route family knows her by first name and in turn, she has grown to know their families, their grandchildren, and when they were having troubles, she would always send a smile and a wave or a bring a package to their door, always going out of her way to serve them, her mail route friends, and NEVER complaining. This year, she made the tough (yet great) decision to retire. She set out to find the details and finally set the date……June 28 earlier to deliver in rain, in snow, in heat or gloom of night, to paraphrase the old saying. She has told me stories of people who heard the news of her retirement when she told them. They promptly joked to their wives, “Honey, we’re moving. Fran’s retiring.” That made mom smile, and why wouldn’t it? She was going to miss everyone she saw every day. They’ve come to help push her out of a slippery snowy edge when the LLV couldn’t quite make it through the snow, and she’d reciprocate bringing homemade rhubarb desserts or cookies to those who helped her out. She was just that way. The mail was only PART of her job, albeit the most important, but not the only part. th , 2013. And so it begun, after 25 years…..she soon didn’t have to get up at 6 or But now it’s time for her pick up on other things she enjoys, playing with her 3 grandkids, relaxing with a glass of wine (she ONLY would have a single glass of wine or beer if she was done driving for the night – always being responsible and thinking about her job), quilting, or hanging out on the pontoon boat with the family, and doing some traveling with her husband…..ya know…..the fun stuff!! When summer ends, she will be caring for her only granddaughter, 13 month old Araya, who is a delightful little handful now that she’s walking [read: running], but grandma wouldn’t have it any other way! Happy retirement mom……we all love you very much. Enjoy!

Fran Kunkel and family members who attended the Thursday ceremony at the Salem Post Office.. /Earlene Frederick photo

Fran Kunkel and family members who attended the Thursday ceremony at the Salem Post Office.. /Earlene Frederick photo

Fran Kunkel and her Salem Post Office co-workers. /Earlene Frederick photo

Fran Kunkel and her Salem Post Office co-workers. /Earlene Frederick photo



  1. Kathy Fischer says:


    What a great tribute to your Mom! You can tell she was surprised and very pleased with your efforts.:) After 25 hard-working years for the Postal Service, she definitely deserves some time for herself and her family.

    “ENJOY”, Fran!

  2. Mike and Dorene Kunkel says:

    Congratulations on 25 years and your
    Retirement! Enjoy Fran!
    Love, Mike and Dorene

  3. Crysti Neuman says:

    Thank you for all your loving years of service. You were so kind when I first arrived in Salem. And continued to be the 20+ years we lived there. You were so friendly with my kids and as they grew you always would ask about them. Fran you are one special lady.

  4. Judi Bondi says:

    Fran has given the residents of Rustic Shores, excellent service, since our first residents (The Schorsch Family) moved in. Always impeccable service with a smile. She has endured and mastered lots of snowdrifts, lots of pouring rain. Fran’s reliable service will always be remembered.

  5. Jack Niccolai says:

    I’ll miss Fran. Her smile, her clever comments and her “above and beyond” work ethic. I wish her a long and happy retirement.

  6. Christine Groeneveld says:

    Congratulations! Your hard work and commitment to the community have been an inspiration. Here’s wishing you many happy years to come.

  7. Tina Winfield says:

    Rachel You Done An Awesome Job On The Presentation For Your Mother. She Deserves All Of It. Shes Good Lady. You Have Her Traits. Well Done
    Best Wishes To Her And Enjoy Life.
    Tina & Ray Winfield

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