Eileen O’Krafka, who’s set to turn 92 years old this summer, is believed to be Canada’s oldest working postmaster.
Five days a week, she sorts mail into nearly 70 post office boxes, collects outgoing mail, sells money orders, weighs packages and balances the books in her small post office. A former general store she and her late husband, Joe, bought back in 1969, the building is located in the tiny village of in Rostock, Ont., which is about 50 kilometres east of Kitchener and 150 kilometres west of Toronto.
While her husband retired from the post office in 1984 at the then-mandatory age of 67, O’Krafka, who’s seven years his junior, still isn’t ready to call it quits.
“I’m not done working,” she told her daughter, Lynda, three decades ago.
When O’Krafka turned 90 in 2017, her family organized a surprise party with Canada Post, which presented the long-time postmaster with a framed stamp from 1927 – the year of her birth – alongside letters of congratulations and a 30-year service pin. The entire village of Rostock was invited to attend, and relatives flew in from both coasts to surprise the birthday girl.
HALF A CENTURY OF SERVICE
Including the years she helped her husband in the post office as an unpaid assistant, O’Krafka has been working there for 50 years.
“It’s who she is,” said her daughter. “It’s a big part of her identity. For someone on the outside looking in at my mom and her work, it may seem small, but she’s played a very big role in this community.”
Naturally, much has changed since O’Krafka began working at the post office. Notably, technology is among the biggest changes in the past half-century.
“There are days when the computer acts up and it can be a challenge,” said the 91-year-old postmaster, “and I’m still fighting it. But I love the job and love seeing the people.”
GENERAL STORE HISTORIC ADVERTISING
The family’s general store, which they closed in 1990, remains intact as a virtual time capsule of bygone days. The O’Krafkas are the third owners of the store, which originally opened in 1902.
The O’Krafkas, who are the third owners of the store that originally opened in 1902, recently consigned a broad range of historic advertising, some of it dating back to the building’s original owner, for sale through Miller and Miller Auctions, of nearby New Hamburg, Ont.
Miller and Miller is the same auction house that sold actor Paul Newman’s $250,000 woody wagon on CBC’s show Four Rooms, and its auctioneers have appeared as guest appraisers on the U.S. TV series Storage Wars.
To view the lots in the April 6 “Advertising and Nostalgia” sale featuring the O’Krafkas’ consignments, click here.