Mail carrier Donna Crowder was one of a rare breed of postal workers. From 1994 until she moved on to another chapter in her life a few weeks ago, Donna kept virtually the same route and thus became ingrained in the lives of hundreds of islanders on her route – many of whom looked forward every day to her smiling face as she brought them news from outside our emerald shores. In an era of constant change, Crowder became a trusted friend and would often go out of her way to help the customers she held so dear – so much so that, upon hearing news of her departure from the U.S. Postal Service – they held several parties in her honor.
One thing we didn’t know about Crowder is how deeply entwined her roots are with Fort Myers Beach.
“I started with the post office in 1980, and worked my first 14 years in Fort Myers but it was hard because my then-husband and I lived on the island so the commute to work was brutal,” she told us. “In 1994 I transferred to the beach, got my permanent route in 1995 and never left.”
Donna’s first husband was none other than William ‘Rusty’ Isler, who would become the first person sworn onto Town Council when the Town of Fort Myers Beach was born in 1995.
“My parents bought their first house here in 1972, and Rusty and I were married at St. Raphael’s Episcopal Church in 1979,” Crowder told us. “My aunt and uncle were co-owners with the Springer’s of Moss Marine, my ex’s aunt, uncle and father owned the Bonita Fish Company and my kids went to Beach Elementary where I was involved with the Parent Teacher Organization (PTO), a Brownie Leader and Junior Leader.”
Even after her kids graduated from Beach Elementary, Donna remained involved with the school – speaking to Ms. Schuster’s Kindergarten class about the post office every year around Valentine’s Day.
“Some of my favorite memories are of the swing bridge and riding my bike around the Mound House when it was still privately owned,” she told us. “The property used to be lined with coconut trees. It was – and still is – beautiful.”
When Crowder and Isler divorced, Rusty remained on the island and Donna moved off but kept her route because she didn’t want to lose seniority or the companionship of the people she interacted with every day.
Donna’s route changed a bit over the years, but roughly followed Estero Boulevard from the 4000 block south to Ibis Street, sometimes including the side streets and sometimes not.
“I went all the way to Publix, including Snook Bight and Ocean Harbor, back by St. Raphael’s and on down,” she said. I loved the people on my route. I even met my current husband through someone I delivered mail to.”
Those residents returned that love and when Donna announced that she was retiring – threw her a wine and pizza party on January 30th and a thank you party at St. Raphael’s a few weeks later. We asked some of them to share memories of her, and the following are a few of the responses:
“I’m sure I can speak for others when I say that this woman will be sorely missed every day about 9:30 am” said Ben Tiezzi. “She not only just dropped mail in your box but if you had any questions, she had the answers for you and she gave you that personal touch which is unheard of from a Federal employee. Hopefully she will enjoy her well-deserved retirement.”
“We can’t tell you how much her personable, professional and courteous service is missed,” wrote Bay Village residents Mike and Jo Martin. “She even provided us with her email address when we had to have our mail forwarded, in the event we would have any problems or need to adjust our return date. That is what is called service “above and beyond expectations”. I can definitely state, as a retired USPS employee, that Donna exemplified the image the USPS would like all of their employees to project to the public. Donna – you are missed!”
“We moved to FMB in 2000 and one of the first people we met was Donna who introduced herself at our mailbox,” said Kathi Olson. “She welcomed us to ‘paradise’ and said if she could be of any help with our mail to let her know. Often we had to hold or forward our mail. With Donna anything we requested was flawless…she was quick to smile and wave…A few years back the Estero Island Historic Society received a letter addressed to the cottage on Bay Road. There is no mailbox on the property as we have a post office box. The postal carrier for that area planned to return to sender. Donna knew some of the volunteers, and let us know that there was a letter for us that would be sent back. We retrieved the letter to find a very generous donation from the estate of a person that had died “up north.”
“Donna has delivered my mail for 16 years and I have arrived at the conclusion that she is the best and most efficient post office employee I have encountered anywhere in the country,” Jim Ketter told us. “Always a smile and will resolve any mail concerns you may have or anything else she can help you with.”
“Donna is truly one in a million, and one of the best parts of living on Fort Myers Beach.”
Donna told us that while she is enjoying her retirement, she already misses all the friends she made over the years.
“I loved my customers and in turn they felt like family,” she said. “I visited them in the hospital, saw children grow into young adults, had cries over loss of spouses and pets. I can’t express how much they are in my heart. I had a gentleman fall from his attic as the ladder gave way and I saw him on the floor and I knew he lived alone.”
“I dressed up for Halloween each year and my customers waited to see what I would be the next year. I had so many good years. I would help my customers to the best of my ability.”
“I love retirement but I miss the wonderful people who enriched my life on a daily basis!”
Keri Hendry Weeg