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The Yosemite postmaster retires after more than 40 years (and a whole lot of mail)

John Reynolds outside of the Post Office on Christmas, a regular part of his job.
Christine Gale Reynolds
John Reynolds outside of the Post Office on Christmas, a regular part of his job.

Welcome to a new NPR series where we spotlight the people and things making headlines — and the stories behind them.

Instead of getting chased by rowdy dogs, John Reynolds had his pick between bears, coyotes and plenty of other creatures (not actually, but imagine!)

Who is he? John Reynolds was the postmaster for Yosemite National Park in California, serving over 40 years in the Yosemite and El Portal Post Offices. This week, he retired from the position.

  • Reynolds started his career in the summer of 1978 as a college student. After a casual visit to his mother at work, (who happened to be a 43-year employee of the Yosemite Post Office), he was offered a summer job. Is there a gene for mail?
  • A true (and rare!) area local, Reynolds was born and raised in Yosemite Valley, with parents that both worked in the park.
  • He worked many different roles in the post offices of the area:, first as a clerk, and eventually becoming the postmaster for neighboring town El Portal in 2004. In 2012, he achieved his dream of becoming Postmaster for the Yosemite Post Office, the position he is now retiring from.
  • John and his wife Christine lived and raised their family in the area, even residing in the postmaster's house, a job perk that is limited to just a handful of U.S. post offices, including Yosemite, Yellowstone, and The Grand Canyon

  • Listen to NPR's interview with Reynolds by hitting the play button at the top.

    View this post on Instagram A post shared by Yosemite National Park (@yosemitenps)

    A local legend. You might not know many people from this part of the U.S. but John's impact was widely felt in his community.

    Family friend and Yosemite local, Micole Mccarthy, shared this story with us:

    "I was 17 years old and was really feeling the isolation that can come with growing up in such a remote area. So for me, one of the bright spots of that summer was the release of J.K. Rowling's final installment of the Harry Potter book series, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows." I had preordered the book online and didn't realize that the release and corresponding delivery date of the book was on a Saturday.

    Our post office was typically closed for package pick ups. I only realized it a couple of days before and I was completely devastated. So imagine my surprise when I woke up on Saturday morning to a call from John, telling me he was opening the post office for a couple of hours, so the handful of locals who'd ordered the book could come in and get their copies the same day that everyone else in the U.S. was getting theirs as well. I was so excited I jumped out of bed and immediately ran down to the post office. He said he knew how important this day was to some of us and he was happy to do it."

    The legend himself at his retirement ceremony on Tuesday, January 31st, 2023.
    / Photo courtesy of Christine Gale Reynolds
    Photo courtesy of Christine Gale Reynolds
    The legend himself at his retirement ceremony on Tuesday, January 31st, 2023.

    What does he have to say about himself?

    "Some of my first memories as a clerk, working with the postmaster, is going down to a spot on Highway 140, which is the main entrance coming into the park. There was a rockslide. And we wanted to get the mail in and without delay. So the mail truck drove up the closest road to the rockslide. And we bucket brigaded across the rocks. I mean, handing the bags [of mail]. We were jumping across the rocks.

    That's what I took pride in. Mother Nature, and overcoming, and trying to get mail into the park because people count on their mail. People look to the post office and their mail as a normalization.

    When Mother Nature does kick in, it stresses people out and gives a great anxiety. The Post Office and having their mail gives the sense that I've learned over the years, a sense of anchor, a sense of normalcy.

    So I think that's the biggest pride that I took in my job, is doing that, getting the mail in such an isolated place."

    The mighty Yosemite Falls looking mighty.
    Ezra Shaw / Getty Images
    Getty Images
    The mighty Yosemite Falls looking mighty.

    Want more stories about interesting people? Listen to the Consider This episode with Pamela Anderson.

    So, what now?

  • John and Christine first plan to move out of the Postmaster's house into their own place nearby.
  • Despite having lived in the area his entire life, he says there is plenty of back country he'd still like to explore.
  • Then, there's time to enjoy retirement. The Reynolds will be traveling to Europe, and John plans on taking lots of road trips, "unencumbered by a time schedule" , on his motorcycle.
  • John and his wife Christine during father's day weekend in 2016.
    / Christine Gale Reynolds
    Christine Gale Reynolds
    John and his wife Christine during father's day weekend in 2016.

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    Manuela López Restrepo
    Manuela López Restrepo is a producer and writer at All Things Considered. She's been at NPR since graduating from The University of Maryland, and has worked at shows like Morning Edition and It's Been A Minute. She lives in Brooklyn with her cat Martin.