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Canceling his last stamp after 24 years

KINGSTON —  When locals discuss the window clerk at the Kingston Post Office, everyone knows who they are talking about.

But after next Wednesday, Bob Sellin won’t be there to greet customers, take their mail, stamp it and ask about life these days.

After 24 years of working at the Kingston station, Sellin is putting away his stamp pad and retiring to the dry desert of Palm Springs, Calif. However, he will say good-bye to all his co-workers, regulars and friends at a retirement reception at 12:30 p.m. Aug. 31 at the post office.

Sellin was born and raised in Seattle and moved to Hansville in 1974, then to Kingston in 1994. He started working at the Kingston location in 1981 after applying for a job to be a part-time clerk, then became a full-time clerk in 1993.

During his time, he’s seen a lot of changes in the 98346 zip code. The post office has operated out of three different locations during his tenure — first, at the eastern end of the Kingston Thriftway Shopping Complex before it burned down in 1990, then the VFW hall and now its current location at the western end of the Thriftway complex. Following the devastating 1990 fire, Sellin proudly stated that the post office only missed one day’s mail delivery.

The memories that stand out for him during his time in Kingston are the fire and when he became a full-time clerk, going from a six-day flex schedule to a consistent schedule of eight hours a day, five days a week — a schedule he still holds today.

While he ensures that the mail is sorted and put in the post office boxes in the morning and that customers are taken care of all day, he also takes on the role of the Kingston postmaster when she is absent. He could have applied for the position when it had opened up in the past, but reasoned, “I got to the point I didn’t want to take on the responsibility. I could have easily done it.”

He has always worked the window and never delivered mail on a route. But during his career, he’s seen the amount of mail triple as Kingston has grown. When he started in 1981, there were 670 P.O. boxes and two routes, totaling to 1,200 deliveries. Currently, there are 1,860 P.O. boxes and six routes, totaling to 4,700 deliveries.

Sellin has stayed with the Kingston office for so long primarily because he doesn’t like to move, he said. But this next chapter of his life will require a big change. He will be relocating to a condominium and will be closer to family in California. Plus, he turned 60 on July 4 and had plans to retire within the next couple years. Now, he just shakes his head in disbelief as to how close he is to retirement.

“I can’t believe it’s come here as quickly,” he said.

Sellin made the decision to make the move July 8 and it’s been stressful since then, he said, with the anticipation of retiring, selling his home and preparing to move.

“I have so much going on in my head,” he said.

He had thought about moving to California and transferring to a post office down there in years past but realized what he’d miss in Kingston — the small town feel, personally knowing customers and the relaxed work environment.

“As a window clerk, I’m a people person,” he said. “I enjoy my customers. It seems like I have a memory (for customer’s addresses) that won’t quit ... I enjoy the public, I enjoy the people. It’s going to be very difficult to leave here.”

One co-worker kept passing by his window Wednesday morning, singing her own version of “Memory” from the musical “Cats,” with changed lyrics about Sellin.

“You see what I work with?” he said with a shake of his head but a twinkle in his eye. “We get along quite well around here.”

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