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Published: Wednesday, 12/11/2002

Reindeer stamp puts Rudolph on map again

Mary and Tom Seitz, at left, often mistaken for Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus, hand over their mail to Marsha Deitemyer, postmaster in Rudolph, for the distinctive hand-stamp that is used there during the holidays, above. Mary and Tom Seitz, at left, often mistaken for Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus, hand over their mail to Marsha Deitemyer, postmaster in Rudolph, for the distinctive hand-stamp that is used there during the holidays, above.

RUDOLPH, Ohio - While thumbing through a magazine in a hospital waiting room, Margo Malcheski happened on a story from a quaint village with a famous resident.

The Walbridge resident decided then that Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer would become part of her family Christmas tradition.

So she talked her daughter Robyn Ketcham of Lorain, Ohio, into taking a day off work yesterday and driving to Rudolph to have their Christmas cards hand-stamped with a picture of Santa's most famous reindeer.

“It's fun,” Ms. Malcheski said of the postmark. “I even mailed one to us, so we could have the postmark.”

Ms. Ketcham is a little less enthusiastic than her mother, but she worked hard hand-embossing her Christmas cards to make sure they were done on time for their mother-daughter day of mailing, shopping, and lunching.

“It's neat,” she said.

Each year this unincorporated Wood County village about six miles south of Bowling Green gears up for a slew of Christmas cards from all over the nation. The 1,000 villagers seem to take pride in making the visit to their local post office a friendly tradition.

The local courier bakes cookies every year. The delectable treats are set out for road-weary and hungry visitors. As you open the door, the aroma of fresh coffee tempts the taste buds.

After a few minutes, a familiar face comes through the door to say “Hello” to postal employees or check for packages.

Lyle Bomer, a Rudolph resident, visits the station daily. Yesterday he came with a string of lights ready to illuminate Santa's reins on a building across the street from the post office.

“The post office is busy,” the retiree says. “I like to watch [the postmaster] open boxes and see how many are in there and where they're from,” Mr. Bomer said.

Typically this small post office handles no more than 500 pieces of mail a day, said postmaster Marsha Deitemyer. But once the Rudolph postmark appears, that number jumps to as many as 10,000 pieces of mail daily.

The hand-stamping began Dec. 2 and continues through Dec. 24. As of yesterday, more than 36,000 Christmas cards, letters, and bills donned the profile of Rudolph wearing a scarf that reads “Reindeer Station.”

Each year the stamp changes slightly. Penny Mourray-Bee of Walbridge created this year's design. In the past the postmaster and her staff tinkered with the stamp, adding a sign, a Santa hat, or a candy cane.

Some visitors travel from the other side of Cleveland and Michigan to get their letters canceled with Rudolph's face. Boxes of cards come from all over. Two boxes came from California this year filled with nearly 300 Christmas cards, Ms. Deitemyer said.

“We had one come from Ireland. One of the first ones that got here,” said Charlotte Lamb, postmaster relief.

The extra mail and hand stamping mean a lot of extra work for the postmaster and her employees. “My shoulder gets cramped,” Ms. Lamb said. She wears special gloves to cushion the blow from stamping hundreds or thousands of letters a day.

This time of year, additional employees are brought in to stamp the mail. But they don't complain about the aches and pains.

“You see the look on the people's faces, and they're so happy. It's almost a tradition gone, but we're saving it. I think it's pretty cool we're doing this,” Ms. Lamb said.

“We enjoy it,” Ms. Deitemyer said. “It adds an extra special touch to their greeting. They continue to come because of the comments they get from the recipients.”

The post office at Mermill and Rudolph roads, west of State Rt. 25, is open 7 to 11:30 a.m. and 1 to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 7 to 11:30 a.m. Saturday.

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