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Outgoing mail man

Retiring Woodburn Postmaster Kevin McGrory shares his memories and work philosophy after 37 years on the job


Photo Credit: TYLER FRANCKE | WOODBURN INDEPENDENT - After 37 years with the United States Postal Service, including 13 in Woodburn, Postmaster Kevin McGrory retires at the end of this week.During a restless evening last week, Woodburn Postmaster Kevin McGrory found he couldn’t sleep, so he went into the office.

At 4:30 a.m.

The fact that he’s about to retire at the end of this week after 37 years on the job doesn’t mean much to the schedule and work ethic of the former Air Force service member and son of hard-working Oregon farmers.

“I was born working, and I’ll die working,” the 61-year-old said. “My father taught me that if you’re going to do a job, do it right, or don’t bother. So, I’ve got one week left, and I’m still working 11 or 12 hours a day.”

The 4:30 a.m. start time was a bit of an anomaly. McGrory’s days at the Woodburn Post Office usually begin at the slightly more reasonable hour of 6 a.m. and end around 6 in the evening, he said.

Part of it is his work ethic, and part of it is simply that the post office remains very busy, despite rumors you may have heard to the contrary in the Internet age.

McGrory admits mail volume has taken a hit — a decline of around 25 percent since before the days of Gmail — but he’s proud of the fact that Woodburn is still delivering, on average, 30,000 pieces of mail to 11,000 households every single day — except Sundays, of course.

“You know, after 37 years, I’ve seen a lot of mail and a lot of things in the Postal Service, but that still impresses the hell out of me,” McGrory said.

During a rare moment of stillness not too long ago, McGrory said he calculated how far you could go if you lined up all of the mail, on-edge, that is processed through Woodburn in one year.

“You could go all the way to Salem, down (Interstate 5),” he said with a smile.

That distance, for the record, is 18 miles.

The load’s been made easier in the past four decades by a huge jump in the sophistication of the Postal Service’s processing machines, which can now handle as much as 40,000 pieces an hour.

“It’s really amazing how much mail these machines can process,” he said. “Some of them — all you see is a blur.”

After five years with the Air Force, McGrory signed on in 1977 as a clerk at the mail processing and distribution facility in Salem (the operations of which were relocated to Portland in 2012). He spent 23 years in state capital, before accepting the position of postmaster in Woodburn in June 2001.

“Best decision I ever made,” he said proudly. “I’ve enjoyed working here in Woodburn much more than anything else I ever did with the Postal Service.”

McGrory said the mail service still provides something the Internet can’t, especially to military personnel stationed overseas, something he saw firsthand while serving in the APO (the designation for the Army and Air Force Post Office) in a number of exotic locations.

“That was when the mail really mattered, in war time, in Vietnam,” he said. “But even today, the mail is still the lifeline home. There’s nothing like getting that care package from home.”

McGrory has a seemingly never-ending supply of stories that he loves to tell about the things he’s seen and the people he’s met over his long career, and if you let him, he just might go on a rabbit trail. But despite the passion he clearly has for his work, that’s not the main reason he has maintained the grueling schedule he has for so long.

“I think the reason I work so many hours is I always make time for my people. It doesn’t matter how good the machines get, if you don’t take care of your people, the machines aren’t going to be worth anything.”

At least that part of his legacy will remain at the Woodburn Post Office even after McGrory leaves, in the form of a small “postal park” he built on the premises with his own money.

Located against the fence near the post office’s rear loading bay and featuring a picnic table, sun umbrella, flowering plants, wind spinners and other lawn decorations, as well as a small plaque honoring postal carriers and other employees, the park offers a peaceful respite in a job where such can be hard to find.

When asked what he’ll miss most about the job, his answer is uncharacteristically brief: “the people I work with.”

After McGrory’s last day Aug. 29, he said he plans to do some traveling along the West Coast with his wife, before he finds a new job to occupy his time.

At the Woodburn Post Office, an officer in charge will be appointed by USPS to take McGrory’s place, until a more permanent replacement is found.

Tyler Francke covers all things Woodburn. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 503-765-1195.



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