Final postal delivery

By Dawn De Busk
Staff Writer

UP FOR HER NEXT CHALLENGE — Retiring postmaster Catherine “Cathy” Larsen plans to take on a new challenge — a crusade for those with autism. (De Busk Photo)

CASCO – The South Casco Post Office’s lobby transformed into a party atmosphere with luscious cake, bright colored balloons and a card for everyone to sign.

When residents stopped in to check their mail on Tuesday, some came bearing gifts — not to be mailed off, but presented to the woman who for the past decade stood behind the counter. The gifts were for a woman who frequently shouted amiable greetings to patrons through an open mail box door while she distributed letters into their proper slots on the other side.

Postmaster Catherine “Cathy” Larsen tried to refrain from tearing up as she read what people had written on her poster-sized card, and accepted generous hugs, well wishes, gift bags and a bouquet of flowers.

After 33 years with the postal service — seven of those as Postmaster in South Casco, Larsen bid farewell to a job that has sustained her family and fulfilled her desire for a career when her children had grown.

“I have enjoyed working for the post office, it has afforded my family a good lifestyle. It was nice to be able to work part-time, and be with my children, and help them with college tuition payments later,” said Larsen, who put in 22 years with Naples post office and spent three years commuting to Bar Mills Post Office.

“I will pop in just to say ‘hello’ now and then. It’s not going to be my second home,” she said of the South Casco Post Office. “I am leaving it behind.”

Will she be wearing house slippers and puttering around the house, playing tag with boredom?

Will she be donning a wide-brimmed straw hat as she lovingly tends a summer garden?

No way, Larsen said. She finds gardening too mundane, and she doesn’t plan to slow down long enough for boredom to catch up.

Instead, she plans to get certified as an autism spectrum specialist through the Maine Autism Society. She hopes to use those new skills to assist autistic children and their families at the local elementary schools. She wants to provide parents with resources, letting people know where to turn for help.

When she discovered her granddaughter, now 8, was on the autism spectrum, Larsen’s family went through the turmoil and frustration of not knowing, of not having agencies follow through with much needed help.

“We had nothing,” she said.

“We were supposed to get a case manager. We heard promises, but nothing. Someone should have been checking up on our family, but none of that materialized,” Larsen explained.

“You have to be proactive. You can’t pick up phone, talk to someone. You would still be waiting for that return a phone call. You have to be outspoken,” she said.

According to Larsen, the biggest gap is when state-operated child development services stop and the public school system takes over.  The schools do what they can, she said.

Larsen envisions helping in special needs classrooms. If parents are seeking more information, she’ll step forward with resources that she will have compiled.

“I am passionate about it. That is going to be my crusade,” she said.

“If I can make it easier for one family, it’s worth it to me,” she said.

Meanwhile, on the family front, Larsen has five grandchildren who live on the same road where her Naples home is located.

Her husband of 44 years, who is twice retired, has been handling the responsibility of getting grandchildren to the bus stop in time, and being there to greet them when the bus drops them off.

“I’ll be able to take that off his plate, so he can go fishing more often,” she said.

Larsen’s sister said she is always in motion, always busy, but able to complete the goals she sets.

“I am the one who plays hide-and-seek with children outside, and plays softball, and climbs the trees,” she said.  “I am the one who is outside playing with the kids while the adults are making dinner.”

Recently, her 10-year-old grandson said he couldn’t wait for summer to arrive. Larsen asked him if the reason was because school was out, and he would be free from homework.

She said, “He responded, ‘No, because you will be retired this summer.’ ”

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