West Tisbury, Chilmark postmasters end the year and their post office careers

Paula Sullivan looks forward to more time on the beach with a fishing rod in hand. Joe Massua just wants to relax.

West Tisbury postmistress Paula Sullivan will retire on the last day of 2013. — Michael Cummo

West Tisbury postmaster Paula Sullivan and Chilmark postmaster Joe Massua will each retire from the U.S. Postal Service on New Year’s Eve after a combined total of 58 years of moving the mail. The timing is purely coincidental.

Deb Little of Vineyard Haven, a clerk at the Edgartown post office, will take charge of the West Tisbury post office until the Postal Service selects a permanent replacement.

“I’m very pleased to transfer the office to her,” Ms. Sullivan said in an email to The Times; “it will be in good hands.”

Leigh Vanderhoop, who now works at the Chilmark post office, will take over for Mr. Massua.

A native of Natick, Ms. Sullivan began her postal career at the Medfield post office on April Fool’s Day in 1986. President Ronald Reagan sat in the Oval Office, and a first-class stamp cost 22 cents. She worked for 16 years as a retail clerk, a financial clerk, a bulk-mail tech, and a customer and delivery supervisor before she arrived on Martha’s Vineyard in 2001 to take the job of Chilmark postmaster. In 2005 she transferred to West Tisbury.

Mr. Massua, a native of Everett, began working for the post office in Randolph in 1986 as a letter carrier. In 1993, he moved to Hyannis, where he began working in management. In 1998 the postal service asked him to move to Martha’s Vineyard to take the helm of the Vineyard Haven post office.

Mr. Massua said he arrived at the end of October, and the Island was very, very quiet. “Back then it was dead here, and I wondered what I got myself into,” he told The Times in a telephone conversation Monday. “But I fell in love with the place. I stayed, and here I am.”

Mr. Massua moved to the Chilmark post office last year. Compared with the pace in Vineyard Haven, it was something of a rest.

Mr. Massua said he has no immediate plans for his retirement beyond relaxing and staying busy. “It’s been a great experience, and I’m glad I’ve met so many great people,” he said.

Ms. Sullivan looks forward to spending more time with her granddaughter, bicycling, reading, and walking her dogs. Beachgoing and fishing top her list of retirement activities.

“I’m fortunate to have been a part of the MV Surfcasters since I moved here by myself,  knowing no one here at the time,” she said. “I’m now on the Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby committee, and have met wonderful friends.”

Postal privacy rules keep Ms. Sullivan from recounting the details of many of the memorable moments from her years on the job, but not her sense of gratitude to the community.

“The memory I will carry with me when I leave is the pleasure I’ve had this holiday season with my customers, the sweet sendoff Skipper [Manter] gave me at the West Tisbury town Christmas party with Shari and Diane, my co-workers,” she said in an email to The Times. “Community means everything, and you all have shared that with me. Thank you and see you on the beach. Tight lines!”