Older than Scotland County itself, the Gibson Post Office has become a community institution, due in no small part to its postmaster of 24 years — Dianne McKay.
Friends and family celebrated McKay’s more than two decades at the Gibson Post Office with a surprise retirement party on Friday.
“I’ve been going to that post office for 40 years, and she’s just good to us,” said Edith Pearson, a South Carolina resident who holds a Gibson post office box. “When we would go, she would do our money orders and stuff. My daughters and my grand kids were all raised going to the post office and she would give them candy.”
Pearson hosted a retirement party for McKay at the Hampton Inn in Laurinburg. The event was attended by some 40 of McKay’s friends, family members, and others who call Gibson home.
McKay, a resident of the Mason’s Cross community southeast of Gibson, began work at the post office as a clerk in 1979. With the retirement of Sadie Odom in 1988, she became postmaster. Her colleagues said McKay’s retirement on July 31 marks the end of an era at the Gibson Post Office hallmarked by community, kindness, and unfailing service to others.
“There are not many businesses left in our town of Gibson, but we can reminisce about the time that we were a very strong town,” said Odom, who began work in the postal service in 1946. “We had three railroads, two department stores, two meat markets, three grocery stores, an ice house, a dime store, a blacksmith shop, two barber shops, four doctors’ offices – we even had a newspaper. At one time we were a booming little town, and the Gibson Post Office has survived.”
Of McKay, Odom depicted an individual who has made it her business to go above and beyond a postmaster’s job description, including personally delivering mail to the elderly and ailing.
“It took me a very short time to get to know Dianne, and to love her,” said Odom. “She has been very kind to elderly people who may have problems getting their mail out of the boxes. She has been faithful to the post office and to the patrons she has served – she not only was a postmaster, she was a servant to the community.”
Guests were given a history of the Gibson Post Office by Odom, guessed important facts like the number of boxes in the post office (389, with some 500 more on Gibson’s rural routes) and the ages of McKay’s four grandchildren (13, 9, 7, and 2), and provided their own recollections of McKay’s work in the post office.
“I’ve probably known Dianne for 50 years, even before she worked at the post office,” said Ronnie Hudson, Gibson’s mayor. “Dianne’s a great person, and they’re going to really miss her down there.”
“She would help anybody,” added Gibson resident Charlie Odom. “Go in there, and she would always ask about your family; she was always concerned about everybody.”
Thaddeus Johnson, formerly the proprietor of Johnson’s Delivery Service, recalled McKay’s devotion to her work and to each person who walked through the post office doors.
“One thing I do know about Diane, she was real faithful to her customers, and I’d stand in the office some days and watch her fill out people’s money orders and things, and I thought that was real great,” said Johnson. “People would come in late, and she would take her time and she wouldn’t turn nobody back.”
The commendations were echoed even by those of more recent acquaintance with McKay.
“The day I met Dianne, my life changed,” said Ellen Morrison, who has worked at the Gibson Post office for a year. “She’ll never understand what she means to me. Her willingness to help others and her selflessness are just incredible; she puts others before herself. She’s a wonderful person.”
McKay, for whom the celebration was a surprise, reflected as much appreciation of her supporters as they expressed for her.
“I appreciate everything that you all have done, and I’ve appreciated all of my customers and all of my friends, and my second mama right there,” she said, referring to Odom. “I thank her for hiring me and getting me this job. I love my family – they’ve had to put up with a lot through the years without me, because I have spent a lot of time at the post office. I love all of you, and I sure am going to miss you.”
Pearson provided a home-cooked dinner of ham, chicken, green beans, cabbage, and macaroni and cheese for the party, with a dessert cake in the form of a mailbox procured by her grandchildren.
“I didn’t go through a lot of education,” Pearson said. “Anything I needed her to do, she did it. She is good to everybody. Dianne is somebody special, and I thought it was time for me to pay her back.”