She is not only a mail whisperer, but she is also a therapist, humorist, and a battle-weary queen who has found new meaning in her job as an essential worker in pandemic times. Gearhart ‘s Queen of snail mail is no ordinary postal employee. In many ways, she is the pulse of Gearhart, a coastal city sandwiched between Seaside and Warrenton, Oregon.
Karynn Kozij is arguably one of the most famous and adored persons in a city with over 1,500 residents. Some of her customers say she is the most compassionate postal employee with a quirky and sassy personality that keeps customers smiling.
One afternoon, I went to the post office after a heavy lunch downtown Seaside. While retrieving my mail from the tiny mailbox area, I burped out loud. From behind the mailbox, Karynn said with a soft and gentle voice, “Excuse Me!”
Needless to say, it was a very discomfiting situation, little did I know she was fond of many such tricks and antics from behind mailbox. She had a good laugh, at my expense. Before I signed off that day, she told me, “Take it easy!”
In the course of writing this piece, I spent an hour talking to random customers of the post office. I spoke with 12 different customers who had something positive to say. One lady said she drove 17 minutes from neighboring Cannon Beach to get her mails from Gearhart, because of Karynn Kozij.
Another customer from Cannon Beach, Lisa Carpenter, said: “If you have a new pet, you better tell Karynn.” Every customer with a pet agreed that Karynn remembers every customer and their pet by name.
Beyond knowing the pets by name, she also has treats for all pets that come with their owners. In collaboration with her two colleagues who work mainly in the back office, Karynn organized, “Dogs Days of Gearhart,” a day to recognize and celebrate how it’s great to be a dog in Gearhart, Oregon. Other pets like cats, hamsters, and raccoons must be very jealous of the dogs.
Just because Karynn is a fun and lively does not imply you can mess with her. She admits that she can be abrasive at times. Lately, her job has been taking a heavier toll on her. In spring, she was feeling so lethargic and contemplating to quit.
When Coronavirus arrived unceremoniously, her workload doubled, tripled, and quadrupled overnight. Every morning at 8.30, she will have to sort through hundreds of mails and packages that surpass Christmas season workload.
As things got more chaotic with the public shut down across the state, she discovered she was the only link between the world and the residents of her city. Every morning she received a taller mountain of snail mail and packages.
She starts her mornings by sorting through a myriad of magazines and an 8-foot stack of letters that must be sorted quickly and accurately into postal boxes while trying to find positions for larger parcels; all at the same tending to customers at the counter who need stamps, envelopes and accurate change.
“The Coronavirus has brought new meaning to my job,” said Karynn. She added that the virus has given a fresh pair of eyes to see the world. Karynn says she is battle-weary, but far from giving up because she knows that on some days, she might be the only person that some of the elderly residents get to interact or speak with in-person during these COVID times.
Rain or shine, Karynn opens the post office. Even when nobody was able to step out during the scary, hazy, and hairy days of Corona ’s arrival. Warm and friendly, she would chat or pet your dog. These days, she has been so busy. She barely finds time for more jokes, punchlines or pinching an inch of your mail from behind the mailbox, so that you have to pull harder without knowing she is playing a 3-second prank on you.
Every year, on April Fool ‘s Day, she pulls a different stunt. A few years ago, she covered the outside mailbox with a fake message. During Halloween, she dresses up in the most creative costumes. During the annual fundraiser, she is the biggest cheerleader for the fire department. In her spare time, she makes art with random items she picks from the seashore.
Without a doubt, Karynn is an Unsung hero in Gearhart. From a tiny farm in Saskatchewan, Canada to a tiny city on the Oregon North Coast, Karynn is at home with every resident, pet, or stranger. She is a servant leader, an everyday person who is every bit a hero for her community.