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Signed, Sealed ... Clerk Retires After 32 Years
Leaning forward with a welcoming smile - something she's done so many times she has worn away the varnish on the wooden counter top - Heidi Ethier had been serving customers at the Riverbank Post Office for 32 years until she retired on Friday, March 18.

Balloons, a poster and well-wishers were crowding out the postal equipment and the fresh flowers she has kept at her booth for years. Cake was available in the back. And Heidi had called her mother to come by that morning so Ruth Ethier could be her last customer and buy a book of stamps.

Her father Henri, generally known as "Hank" was a schoolteacher, a local historian and a World War I veteran who flew supply drops over Germany. He died last August.

Heidi Ethier first worked for the post office when it was located on Santa Fe Street about where the Pizza Plus restaurant is now. That was long before it moved to the current building at Third and Sierra streets in 1985.

"Since I started, Riverbank has grown from a small community of about 5,000 people to 22,000 or so," said Ethier. "I've seen lots of (postal) changes from hand machines to automation, of course. But I've also met lots of wonderful people and made many friends."

Ethier grew up in the family home in Riverbank and claims to be a Riverbank citizen although she has lived in Oakdale for 19 years. She attended elementary schools here, graduated from Riverbank High and after working a few years at the Silgan can manufacturing plant, started with the post office at 23.

The attributes for being a good postal clerk? Being friendly, knowledgeable, and knowing customers' names, she said.

The Christmas holiday and tax time in April are the busiest seasons but not stressful, she said.

"I even liked the tax season. There were some customers I only got to see at Christmas and in April when they mailed their tax forms," she said.

Fresh flowers from her garden have been a fixture on her counter for many years.

"My favorite flowers are whatever's in bloom. So long as it's purple," she added.

"My plans for the future are to play a lot," she remarked.

Her other passion besides gardening is using a metal detector to unearth rings, jewelry, old coins, toys and "a lot of garbage." She's been doing it for 30 years and used to go with her father.

"My detector has been serviced, and gold pan cleaned, I ran over my sluice box in the driveway. But my brother is fixing it up. I like searching old houses the best. I'm not that much into beaches or the mountains."

She also intends to do a lot of volunteer work, especially with the Community Hospice in Modesto and help at the local schools which her grandnieces and nephews attend.

She is a member and past president of the Riverbank Historical Society and will continue with that organization.

Ethier has served under six or seven postmasters in Riverbank, the current one being Tony Cordova.

"I trained him as a new hire and a clerk," she said. "He moved out, became a postmaster and came back here. Me, I like just doing my job. I could not have been an administrator. I'm not cut out for it."

Ethier may do some traveling but what she wants to see is in the United States, not abroad.

"This is my last day at work. But I will still be around. I'm not going anywhere," she concluded.