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Weathering rain, sleet and snow

COPPER MOUNTAIN – Retiring isn’t always easy.

Copper Mountain resident Vi Effinger retired Sept. 18 after working 27 years at the Copper Mountain Post Office. She said she had mixed emotions about retiring from a job she loves.

“It was difficult,” the petite, 77-year-old woman said. “But I decided it was time for me. People kept asking me when I was going to retire. I finally did it.”

Effinger began working at the post office when she and her family moved to Copper Mountain in 1975, about a year after the post office there opened. Though Effinger had held a few jobs briefly after high school, this was her first real job, she said.

Back then, the post office was open only about four hours a day. Effinger and a friend, Jane Peterson, ran the post office together for about 13 years. The two women drove to Frisco every morning to pick up incoming mail and again in the evening to drop off outgoing mail. As the saying goes, neither rain nor sleet nor gloom of night kept them from their duties – a real feat in the High Country.

The post office Effinger remembers – it had only 192 post office boxes – has grown to one with more than 1,000 boxes. It now provides the small community with full-time service and staffs three, full-time employees.

Being part of such a small staff is like having an extended family, and Effinger said it was hard to say goodbye to co-workers Steve Cuthbertson (with whom she’s worked for almost 10 years) and Grace Mora.

“The last few years that I’ve worked there have been doubly special because of them,” she said. “Of course, I’ll still see them, but there’s something about being with them.”

But Effinger’s Copper Mountain family doesn’t stop with fellow postal employees. Effinger met many Copper employees when they were young adults and has seen them – and their children – grow over the years.

“I’ve watched them grow up, get married, and now I know their children,” she said. “It’s really something. Some of those friends, their children are in college now.”

Many of Effinger’s friends have helped her with one of her favorite hobbies – collecting postcards. She’s been collecting them all of her 27 years on the job. Effinger used to hang up the postcards in the windows for all to see. She said compiling the various cards has been “one of the neatest things” about working at the post office.

“I got so many, I filled up the windows,” she said, laughing.

It’s too soon to say how many she’s collected over the years, though.

“I couldn’t begin to tell you – boxes and boxes. I received, on an average, at least 200 a year.”

Now that she’s retired, Effinger said, she plans to go through all the boxes of postcards, read them again, categorize them and count them. She’s counting on her friends

to continue sending postcards, even though she’s retired.

Remarkably, many of those postcards have reached Effinger without a specific post office box listed in the address.

In fact, one of her sons sent her a postcard from Europe addressed simply: Vi, 80443, USA. She got it.

Aside from tending to her postcard collection, Effinger plans to keep busy by spending time with her family. She has four children, five grandchildren, two great-grandchildren and two more great-grandchildren on the way.

Effinger said it’s not having great-grandchildren that makes her feel old, “it’s your children being grandparents that makes you feel old. Though, I don’t feel old.”

Effinger has a lot of energy, and though it might take some time to get accustomed to retirement, she isn’t afraid of growing bored.

“I’ll find something to do. I always have to keep busy.”

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