For 41 years, Claire Fell Metzger epitomized how small-town postmasters were the backbones of their communities.
In her case, that might be an understatement.
Ms. Metzger, who was honored by the Monclova Historical Foundation posthumously over the weekend, nearly four decades after her death, ran the post office in Monclova Township from 1915 to 1956.
She worked out of a building her father, John Metzger, a blacksmith, built for her. It was Monclova Township’s first stand-alone post office, and was thought to be the nation's only one equipped with a piano, which she used to entertain patrons and give lessons.
Ms. Metzger also mailed graduation cards to students she knew who were graduating from high school. She mailed cards to military servicemen and gifts to newly married couples. She wrote poetry and sent it to people when she thought they needed a lift.
“She was an icon of Monclova,” said Bill Strayer, the Monclova Historical Foundation's board president. “Being in the post office, she knew everybody the post office served.”
On Saturday, the Monclova Community Center, operated by the foundation, dedicated a sculpted bust of Ms. Metzger. It went on display inside the old post office where she worked, now a museum on the community center’s lot along Monclova Road.
“She was just this huge community figure,” said Mary Kay, the community center’s director.
Ms. Metzger was known as a postmistress — a gender-specific term not commonly heard these days. According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, though, a woman who ran a post office was known as a postmistress as far back as 1697. The term was in common use for almost 300 years.
Ms. Metzger, who earlier was recognized in a proclamation by U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo), died on Aug. 19, 1973, at age 88.
She never married, but served as a substitute teacher and eventually became a member of the local school board, according to a records search done by Mr. Strayer and Ms. Kay.
The former Monclova postmaster also seemed a bit eccentric: She split her time between two houses next door to each other. She often wore black, including a black cape.
She was a sweet, kind lady, but also believed in maintaining order. She was known to bring a razor strop into her classrooms and lay it on her desk, where students could stare at it while she gave her lessons. It is not known if she ever used it.
Recently, the historical foundation learned she was buried in Swan Creek Cemetery, near her parents. That wasn’t well known, because her parents have markers over their graves and she doesn’t.
The historical foundation and the community center have decided to change that. While raising money for the sculpture, they also raised enough to purchase a modest marker for her grave that resembles what her parents have. It was being made from hard-to-find granite that was special-ordered from a Minnesota quarry. The monument is expected to be completed in June, Mr. Strayer said.
He said $5,500 that was raised should cover most costs for the sculpture and grave marker, although the foundation was raising more money to cover other incidentals.
Any surplus funds will go toward maintaining the former Monclova post office as a museum. The post office closed in December, 1961, and replaced by one at Monclova and Waterville-Monclova roads.
“It’s almost sad nobody put a marker on her grave,” Ms. Kay said. “We don’t know why.”
Contact Tom Henry at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6079.