A woman in our Puna community who has gone beyond the call of service as our postal rural carrier woman culminated her career on Jan. 31. Most say Lareida Phillip Buckley has retired, yet I prefer to say she has refired!!!
Lareida grew up in Texas. Service runs in her family, as both of her parents served as Sherriffs. Lareida graduated from Texas A & M in the first class of women. She met & married her husband, Byron in Austin, Texas 42 years ago. As newlyweds, they moved to Oahu in 1972; then to the Big Island in 1978. Lareida had a variety of careers before becoming a postal carrier from school teaching, to social work to working as the Coordinator for HMSA. In 1979, they built their home for the first time in Leilani Estates.
Lareida pursued a career with the postal service thinking it would be a great way to get physical activity. She hoped to be walking the streets in Hilo delivering mail, yet that’s not what happened. At first, she started part time working 6 days a week in Puna. Five years into it, Lareida was given a fulltime position as a “Rural Route Carrier.” At the end of her career, she had earned the coveted privilege of having Monday’s off which were the heaviest mail day of the week.
The route that Lareida drove each day, is one of the most beautiful roads on the Island. She drove on the Red Road alongside the ocean where she often had glimpses of whales and dolphins
Her original route was 80 miles going from the Pahoa Post Office, to Nanawale , to Kapoho, the Red Road , Kalapana , , Kehena, Royal Gardens, and Leilani Estates. As the subdivisions started to get more populated, her route changed eliminating Nanawale and most of Leilani. Of course the lava flow took away Royal Gardens too. Her last route was 60 miles long and covered approximately 300 houses and 650 boxes. In her 25 years of service, the population has at least doubled.
Many of the homes in the subdivisions do not have home delivery and have “clusterboxes” located in the front of their subdivisions. Lareida
serviced 8 cluster boxes.
When she started, she drove her own car. First she drove a Subaru then a Saturn. Both had driving wheels on the right side. She only had a couple of minor accidents over the years backing up into a tree and a little fender bender. For the last 3 years, she’s driven the postal truck.
During her 25 years, she’s seen 11 postmasters come and go. When asked why there were so many, Lareida replied that Puna has very “vocal customers.” Lareida reports that there’s two types of postal carriers, ones that love it and one’s that hate it. Lareida fell into the first category of loving her job. She says that, “everyone was so nice to me.”
Her day began at 8:15 at the post office where she would sort the mail for two to three hours getting it all organized for delivery. There were four other carriers who would also be sorting their routes. Over the years,they all got to be very close, almost like family. Often they would share their unique “carrier dreams” filled with lost mail stories, angry customers, and anxiety about time. After sorting the mail, Lareida would go on the road for five to six hours until every piece of mail was delivered. Then she would go back to the post office to set up for the next day. When out on the road driving, she considered it mindless work since everything was already so well organized. She had the opportunity to listen to books on audio. She has listened to well over 1,000 books this way.
Occasionally, she had to work when she was sick. Her husband commented that the most difficult time was when Lareida’s back went out for two weeks, and he had to help her do the deliveries with her lying on her back trying to instruct him what to do. Its not like you can just call in sick because the mail has to get delivered!
One of her co-workers of 14 years said in a questionnaire that she will miss Lareida’s positive attitude. Another co-worker of eight years, wrote that she will miss Lareida’s stories about her adventures. What she appreciated most about her was….”everything. She’s the most wonderful, thoughtful, toughest woman I know and adore.”
If you were to talk to almost anyone on her route, they would have something positive and sweet to say about Lareida. We all thought she treated us specially. She hated the thought that we would have to drive all the way to Pahoa to pick up packages so when ever she could especially when she drove her own car, she would come to our house and deliver it. Sometimes she would even stumble upon naked people. She was gracious to give out her phone number so that people could contact her if they needed to.
Our community had the opportunity to show our love and appreciation for Lareida six years ago when her house burned down to the ground while she was out on the job. She and her family members lost all their possessions. We held an auction & party to help raise money for the rebuilding. Today, after living in their rebuilt home for five years, they can talk about the blessings and gifts of this transformational experience.
Recently at a brunch, we mentioned some of her customers and she could rattle off their box numbers like its her own social security number. I wonder how long this will stick in her brain?
Since Lareida was the postal carrier closest to the lava flow, she would receive the parcels from regretful tourists who had taken rocks off the Island as souvenirs. In an attempt to change their “bad luck” Lareida did her best to deliver the contents back to Pele while offering a prayer to the person- “Give this person peace.”
After 25 years of working, Lareida had some apprehension about how she would fill her days, yet she happily reports that’s not a problem. She’s been able to take classes in ukulele and Tai Chi. She’s pursuing her love of reading, writing, and traveling. We thank Lareida for her outstanding service and wish her the best in her refirement!
Shakti Hoku Douglas